Bayer’s bid to become a major player in cancer has moved ahead with the news that it is acquiring the preclinical oncology programme of Switzerland’s Nycomed.

The German-headquartered firm said that the deal covers comprises two potential drug candidates “and an extensive set of back-up compounds targeting a kinase critical for growth and survival of cancer cells”. Bayer will assume full development and commercialisation rights of the programme and depending on the “completion of agreed preclinical and regulatory milestones”, Nycomed may receive 52 million euros.
Andreas Busch, head of drug discovery at the Bayer Schering Pharma division, said that the acquisition strengthens the firm’s oncology pipeline “as it is complementary to existing in-house approaches”. The firm sees oncology as a major area of growth, headed by Nexavar (sorafenib) which is already approved in for the treatment of renal cell and liver cancer and is being investigated for a wide range of different cancer types, including melanoma and breast cancer.

As for Nycomed, the sale comes after the firm said earlier this year that it had decided to discontinue its cancer research activities in order to focus its resources on other areas, such as gastro-intestinal, respiration, inflammation, pain, osteoporosis and tissue management. At the start of June, the Zurich-headquartered company sold eight oncology programmes at the pre- and early-clinical stage to Germany’s 4SC for an undisclosed sum.

Kerstin Valinder, executive vice president of business development at Nycomed, said Bayer is “an excellent buyer that will further develop the know-how generated by this oncology project. He added that the firm will “continue to license in products within our strategic areas and source a majority of our R&D projects from external partners”.