By Cara Lombardo and Jonathan D. Rockoff 

Gilead Sciences Inc. is nearing a deal to buy biotech Immunomedics Inc. and its prized breast-cancer drug for more than $20 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

Immunomedics has a market value of roughly $10 billion following a recent surge in its stock, meaning that Gilead is paying up to secure ownership of the company.

A deal could be announced Monday if not sooner, assuming talks don't fall apart and a rival drugmaker doesn't jump in, some of the people said.

Immunomedics, based in Morris Plains, N.J., sells breast-cancer drug Trodelvy, which would be attractive to several large drugmakers, many of which have set their sights on adding more fast-growing oncology therapies to their portfolios.

Breast cancer is one of the most lucrative segments of the world-wide cancer-drugs market, which EvaluatePharma pegs at $157 billion this year. Trodelvy has shown signs of success in treating lung and other cancers too. At a medical conference this coming week, Immunomedics is expected to present data on Trodelvy's performance against bladder cancer.

In April, Trodelvy was approved in the U.S. to treat a form of the disease that has spread to other parts of the body and is known as triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer is an especially aggressive form of the disease that pharmaceutical companies have struggled to treat because it lacks the molecular targets that drugs can hone in on. It accounts for 10% to 15% of breast cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.

Discussions between Gilead and Immunomedics were initially centered around a partnership before shifting to a full-fledged takeover negotiation, some of the people said.

An acquisition would give Gilead -- an antiviral-drug leader that has been seeking for years to build up its portfolio of therapies for other diseases -- a foothold in the fast-growing cancer drug market. And Gilead doesn't take on any risk that regulators won't approve the drug, since they already have done it.

Write to Cara Lombardo at cara.lombardo@wsj.com and Jonathan D. Rockoff at Jonathan.Rockoff@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 12, 2020 15:24 ET (19:24 GMT)

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