Eli Lilly has announced its intention to buy pioneering cancer treatment development company Loxo Oncology in a deal worth approximately $8 billion.

The agreement will cost Lilly $235 per share in cash, in a bid to boost its oncology portfolio with drugs for patients with genomically defined cancers.

Loxo currently markets the oral TRK inhibitor Vitrakvi (larotrectinib), which was developed with Bayer, while the company's pipeline includes the oral RET inhibitor LOXO-292 and the oral BTK inhibitor LOXO-305.

Loxo and Bayer are also developing LOXO-195, a follow-on TRK inhibitor for acquired resistance to TRK inhibition, which Eli Lilly indicated could be launched in 2022.

"We believe that Lilly will bring a great deal of strength to this partnership in addition to what Loxo has already done," said Anne White, president of Lilly Oncology, commenting on the move.

She also noted that the acquisition "represents an exciting and immediate opportunity to expand the breadth of our portfolio into precision medicines and target cancers that are caused by specific gene abnormalities," and that "the ability to target tumour dependencies in these populations is a key part of our strategy."

The Lilly and Loxo deal is already the second big pharma deal made in 2019, with last week’s Bristol-Myers Squibb $74 billion acquisition of Celgene.

"We'd like to grow our presence in oncology. We have a good set of medicines there but we'd like to expand that because there's so much exciting science for patients emerging in oncology to invest in," Lilly chief executive David Ricks commented, adding that "replenishing Lilly's pipeline is a key focus in upcoming years.”