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Almirall inks option deal to acquire blood cancer drug maker Bioniz Therapeutics

Almirall SA entered into an agreement that gives the company an option to acquire all of Bioniz Therapeutics Inc.'s outstanding shares for an initial payment of $15 million.

The acquisition will allow Barcelona-based Almirall to obtain the global rights to BNZ-1, Bioniz's drug candidate that blocks signaling molecules, called cytokines, of the same family, boosting the body's immune system to fight off malignant cancer cells. BNZ-1 is being developed to treat T cell blood cancers, including large granular lymphocyte leukemia and cutaneous T cell lymphoma — a group of rare and often aggressive leukemias with limited or no treatment options.

If Almirall exercises the option, the Spanish pharmaceutical company will also enter into a broader research deal to use Bioniz's multiple cytokine inhibitor platform to develop at least three new cancer therapies ready to be tested in humans.

Under the deal, Almirall will get 60 days to exercise its option after receiving results from Bioniz's phase 1/2 study in cutaneous T cell lymphoma, along with certain clinical biomarker data and a report from the company's meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

With the option being exercised, Irvine, Calif.-based Bioniz will receive about $47 million in payments plus certain development, regulatory and commercial milestone fees.

Bioniz will spin off other assets than BNZ-1 as well as the proprietary platform technology, with Almirall pursuing the development of BNZ-1.

Bhushan Hardas, Almirall's chief scientific officer, said the acquisition expands the company's pipeline in oncodermatology and immunodermatology.