Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) has agreed to acquire Forbius, a protein engineering firm that focuses on biotherapeutics to treat cancer and fibrotic diseases.

Financial details of the agreement, which covers an upfront payment and future milestone payments, have not been divulged.

Forbius developed a portfolio of selective inhibitors of TGF-beta 1 & 3, known to be crucial mediators of immunosuppression and fibrosis.

Selective TGF-beta 1 & 3 inhibition could boost anti-tumour efficacy through synergistic action with immunotherapy.

As part of the acquisition, BMS will obtain Forbius’ TGF-beta programme, including the lead experimental candidate, AVID200.

Initially, BMS plans to work on research and development of AVID200 in cancer indications and may consider expanding its application to additional therapeutic areas, including fibrosis.

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Forbius president and CEO Ilia Tikhomirov said: “Our portfolio of highly selective TGF-beta inhibitors has shown potential across a broad range of therapeutic areas.

“We are proud that BMS recognises this potential given their global leadership in oncology and unique position to translate innovative science into meaningful treatments for patients with cancer across the globe.”

The acquisition, subject to customary closing conditions, should close in the fourth quarter of this year.

Before closing, Forbius’ non-TGF-beta assets will transfer to a newly formed private company, which will continue under the company’s existing shareholders.

Bristol Myers Squibb Research & Early Development executive vice-president and president Rupert Vessey said: “With this acquisition, we extend our leading position in oncology by including new pathways that complement our expansive oncology pipeline with the potential to serve more patients with cancer, including those who may not respond to immunotherapy.

“As a science-driven company, this transaction shows our continued commitment to source innovation internally and externally to develop new treatments for patients with significant unmet medical needs.”

Earlier this month, BMS signed an agreement for an exclusive worldwide licence to Dragonfly Therapeutics’ interleukin-12 (IL-12) investigational immunotherapy programme.