Pfizer Agrees to Buy Cancer Biotech Trillium Therapeutics at a 200% Premium

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Pfizer acquisition values Trillum at $2.3 million. Company sees “blockbuster potential” for its cancer treatments.


Jonas Roosens/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images


Pfizer

said early Monday that it had agreed to purchase cancer-focused biotech

Trillium Therapeutics

for $2.3 billion in cash, or $18.50 a share, a 118% premium over the stock’s average price over the past 60 days, and a 208.8% premium over its Friday closing price of $6.09.


Pfizer

(ticker: PFE) has previously signaled interest in the company, and in September made a $25 million investment in Trillum (TRIL). A Pfizer executive sits on its scientific advisory board.

Trillium’s lead drug candidates, known as TTI-622 and TTI-621, block a molecule known as CD47, and are being tested in various types of cancer.

Shares of Trillium were up 187.6%, to $17.52, in Monday morning trading. Pfizer shares were up 3.5%. Shares of other Covid-19 vaccine makers were also rising after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine on Monday.

“The proposed acquisition of Trillium builds on our strong track record of leadership in Oncology, enhancing our hematology portfolio as we strive to improve outcomes for people living with blood cancers around the globe,” said Pfizer Oncology global president and general manager Andy Schmeltz, in a statement out early Monday.

In a presentation posted Monday, Pfizer called TTI-622 and TTI-621 “potential best-in-class” compounds, and said they would diversify the company’s oncology pipeline, and could be used in combination with other Pfizer therapeutics. The drugs block a signal that cancerous tumors use to evade the body’s innate immune system.

The company said that the drugs have “blockbuster revenue potential” in the 2026-to-2030 time frame.


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The more than 200% premium Pfizer is paying over Trillium’s Friday closing price raised some eyebrows early Monday. According to a database of biotech acquisitions maintained by the website BiopharmaDive, it is the third-largest percentage premium paid for any biotech firm since 2018. As of Friday, Trillium shares were down 58.6% so far this year, and 39.2% over the past 12 months. Of the seven analysts tracked by FactSet who cover the stock, all had Buy or Overweight ratings.

In a note out Monday, Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal wrote that Pfizer has lots of cash to spend. “Pfizer is now sitting in a position where it generates very large amounts of cash, with the need to place it to shore up post-Covid growth,” he wrote. Bernstein said that buying a company to acquire a drug that targets CD47 “is not very imaginative,” but “offers a solid risk reward.”

“We suspect that Trillium, realizing that staying competitive…would require large company resources, was a realistic seller,” Gal wrote.

The acquisition must be approved by Trillium shareholders.

Pfizer stock is up 32.4% this year as of the close of the market on Friday. It trades at 13.2 times earnings expected over the next 12 months, according to FactSet, slightly above its five-year average of 12.4 times earnings.

Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at josh.nathan-kazis@barrons.com

Harry Byrne

Harry Byrne

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