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Gilead moves into cancer with acquisition of Calistoga

Posted on 25 February 2011

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Gilead is making a bold move in the oncology field and taking on competitors such as Pfizer, Roche and Novartis, through the acquisition of Calistoga Pharmaceuticals.

The bet from Gilead's point of view is that as survival rates from cancer improve, the disease will become less of a death sentence, and instead a chronic disease that can be managed in a similar way to HIV.

See deal record at Current Agreements | 2011 M&A Scorecard

If Gilead is right, this could the first of many similar deals as bigpharma seeks to secure the best assets on offer.

Calistoga became a hot property the past couple years.

It is one of a number of companies with a specific drug aimed at a molecular target known as the PI3 kinase pathway—which is involved in multiple cell processes like proliferation, growth, migration, and cell survival.

Research has shown over several years that when this pathway gets switched into an overactive mode, it can lead to cancer and inflammatory diseases. Multiple big pharma companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche, and Sanofi-Aventis, as well as small companies like Intellikine, Cambridge, and Infinity Pharmaceuticals have wagered on this field over the past few years.

What Calistoga didn’t have, and which Gilead does, is a lot of money to move these clinical trials forward - hence the deal.

Besides Calistoga’s lead compound, Gilead will be able to pour more resources into other compounds at an earlier stage of development - for example CAL-120 and CAL-129—are expected to enter clinical trials this year, whilst CAL-263 for inflammatory diseases, will get more of a development push.


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