Pharma, BioPharma

Five (non-cancer) areas Bristol-Myers Squibb is pursuing hard

VP Donnie McGrath said at this week’s RESI conference in Houston that Bristol-Myers Squibb is targeting heart failure, virology, immunoscience, rare disease and fibrosis.

Outside of cancer immunotherapy, Bristol-Myers Squibb is interested in pursuing five areas: Heart failure, virology, rare disease, immunoscience and fibrosis.

Donnie McGrath, a vp at Bristol-Myers Squibb and head of search and evaluation, discussed business development strategy in an interview at this week’s Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) conference in Houston.

McGrath says BMS is open to all kinds of interactions with outside companies — be it in the form of acquisition, partnership or early stage investment. It’s agnostic of modality — any therapeutic pathway is of interest, as long as it fits within the company’s “narrow” scope, McGrath said.

The pharma giant has indeed found a sweet spot in immuno-oncology. Take a look at the recent success of Opdivo, which was recently forecasted to have a 2019 revenue of $5.68 billion. Beyond that, BMS is interested in pursuing the following areas:

1. Heart Failure

Cardiovascular indications like heart failure represent a massive unmet need, McGrath said, and it’s on the lookout for unique new therapies.

Take its move in April, when BMS partnered with Amsterdam-based gene therapy outfit uniQure with plans to focus on congestive heart failure and other cardiovascular indications. This is the pharma giant’s first foray into gene therapy — it follows on the heels of Pfizer, Novartis and Sanofi, which have also entered this space.

2. Virology

The company is interested in indications such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS — building therapies that don’t just maintain a patient’s health, but eradicate disease. BMS has six FDA-approved HIV/AIDS medications that are on the market, making it a natural space to continue expansion.

“In virology, the trend is moving away from traditional antivirals that just suppress a virus,” McGrath said. “It’s about what medicines you can bring forward that cure patients.”

3. Rare Disease

“Rare disease is a new space for BMS,” McGrath said.

BMS is pursing genetic rare disease, and is interested in learning disease mechanisms and pathophysiology. There’s a lot of opportunity in rare disease. McGrath attends investment conferences around the country like RESI, where he spoke, to scope out interesting and innovative startups.

4. Immunoscience

The bar is high in immunoscience because there are bigger indications involved, McGrath said. He says that diseases like lupus have significant unmet need, but the company’s also chasing rare autoimmune disease.

Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are in need of a gamechanger. There are drugs that can incrementally improve on existing therapies, but McGrath sees nothing in development that could be disruptive. BMS is interested.

“We aren’t interested in bringing a second or third generation drug to market,”  McGrath said. “We’re looking for novel mechanisms and novel approaches.”

5. Fibrosis

BMS is working with the California Institute for Biomedical Research to scope out new drugs that treat fibrotic diseases. McGrath said it’s interested in furthering the search for more innovative approaches to fibrosis because the company already has a number of experts that can vet and help further research in this space.

“But don’t believe for a moment that we are going to be limited to going after diseases where we have internal expertise,” he said.