Array’s 21-year journey as an independent platform company, culminating in an $11.4 billion buyout, required shifting focus from research to development and back again. The acquisition sends a message that developing focused expertise and sticking with it long term can pay off, even as other technologies and modalities go from zero to sixty in record time and get paid handsomely for it.
At least six biotech acquisitions in the last three years have seen companies bought for amounts ranging from $4.8 billion to $11.9 billion, within eight years of being founded to develop CAR T cell or gene therapies, or to capitalize on the new biology around tissue-agnostic drug development and synthetic lethality.
The June 17 announcement that Pfizer Inc. will buy Array BioPharma Inc. for its small molecule kinase inhibitor program bucks that model (see “Array Takeout Buoys Biotechs”).
Kinase inhibitors have been a focus in drug development for decades, having moved to “workhorse” rather than “cutting-edge” status.
But Array’s takeout was based partly on the versatile potential of kinase inhibitors to synergize with products capturing the newer biology. It rewards management decisions that kept the company both afloat and focused as it toggled between investing in its own pipeline and partnering its assets.
Array’s platform yielded compounds that are now on the market or in late-phase development, where commercial and clinical activities