Gilead Sciences (GILD 0.29%) announced on Monday that it plans to acquire Forty Seven (FTSV) for $4.9 billion. The deal has already been approved by both biotechs' boards of directors and is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020 pending regulatory approvals and other standard closing conditions.

What Gilead is getting

The main draw for Gilead with the acquisition is Forty Seven's lead pipeline candidate magrolimab. In December 2019, Forty Seven announced encouraging results from a phase 1b clinical study evaluating the drug in combination with Vidaza in treating patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Magrolimab is also being studied as a potential treatment for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).

Woman drawing picture of big fish about to eat a small fish

Image source: Getty Images.

Forty Seven's lead candidate targets the CD47 protein. This protein expresses a "do not eat me" signal that enables cancer cells to avoid being attacked by the body's immune cells.

In addition to magrolimab, Forty Seven claims two other experimental drugs that it plans to advance to clinical testing. FSI-174 is being developed to be part of a combination therapy with magrolimab in stem cell transplantation conditioning. FSI-189 targets cancer as well as other non-cancer indications including transplantation conditioning.

Bolt-on strategy

Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O'Day stated in Gilead's fourth-quarter conference call that the company would likely invest in "small to medium size bolt-on acquisitions." Forty Seven fits that bolt-on strategy well, with the small biotech's pipeline complementing Gilead's cancer cell therapies it picked up with the 2017 acquisition of Kite Pharma.