Bristol-Myers Squibb has bagged additional marketing rights to an experimental cancer immunotherapy from Ono Pharmaceutical in exchange for sharing rights in Japan to its rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia.

B-MS, which already holds the North American development and marketing rights to the fully human anti-PD-1 antibody BMS-936558/ONO-4538, will now take responsibility for the rest of the world, except in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In the USA, the treatment is in Phase I and Phase II development "across a variety of tumour types and treatment settings, including renal cell carcinoma and melanoma". In Japan, Ono is preparing Phase II studies.

In return, the Osaka-headquartered firm will get the rights to jointly develop and commercialise Orencia (abatacept) in Japan. The agreement covers an intravenous version of the drug, which was launched in the country by B-MS a year ago, and the subcutaneous form, currently in Phase III in Japan, and all future versions of Orencia.

B-MS chief executive Lamberto Andreotti  said the deal "further enhances our position as a leader in immuno-oncology". He added that "obtaining expanded rights to this anti-PD-1 antibody through our String of Pearls strategy will enable broader global development of this promising cancer immunotherapy as we continue to build our pipeline and understanding in this exciting area".