Bristol-Myers Squibb has linked up with Ambrx to develop biologics for diabetes and heart failure.

The agreement is based on Ambrx’s research surrounding the fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF-21) protein, for type 2 diabetes, and the relaxin hormone, for treating heart failure. They are very early-stage programmes - PEG-FGF-21 is close to completing preclinical development, while preclinical studies suggest relaxin, which is known for its role in pregnancy and childbirth, may improve cardiac function.

Cashwise, B-MS will make an upfront fee of $24 million and the deal includes undisclosed milestone payments and royalties. The US major's senior vice president of research, Francis Cuss, noted that the firm "has a strong heritage discovering, developing and delivering medicines to treat diabetes and cardiovascular disease” and Ambrx has created "precisely-engineered investigational biologics in both of these therapeutic areas".

Analysts enamoured with B-MS

Meantime, in a week when B-MS has again been mentioned as a takeover target, the firm has been upgraded by analysts at Goldman Sachs from 'neutral' to 'buy'. This comes a couple of days after Jefferies upgraded B-MS shares from 'hold' to 'buy'.

Analysts at the latter made special mention of recently-launched melanoma drug Yervoy (ipilimumab) and the bloodthinner Eliquis (apixaban). They said: "we expect underlying revenue and earnings per share growth will rapidly take off mid-term" and "this is likely to make the company a prime target for acquisition.”

Jefferies believes Pfizer could be a potential buyer for B-MS, whose share price has been hitting 52-week highs regularly in the past month.