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Shareholders of cancer drug developer Trillium Therapeutics Inc. have voted overwhelmingly in favour of Pfizer Inc.’s US$2.26-billion takeover offer for the Mississauga biotechnology company.

Pfizer agreed in August to pay US$18.50 a share – more than triple Trillium’s previous closing price – for the shares of the company it didn’t already own. The deal would be the second-largest for a Canadian biotech company on record, after Shire Pharmaceuticals Group PLC’s $5.9-billion purchase of AIDS drug developer BioChem Pharma Inc. 20 years ago.

It would also mark the second exit of the Toronto Stock Exchange’s most valuable Canadian biotechnology company this year, after Victoria-based Aurinia Pharmaceuticals Inc. – previously the TSX’s most valuable biotech – announced in July that it would leave the senior Canadian exchange in favour of a Nasdaq-only listing.

The Trillium takeover by way of a plan of arrangement – which was approved by more than 99 per cent of its shareholders Tuesday – could be eclipsed by an even larger one. Last Friday, Bloomberg reported that pharma giant Bristol Myers Squibb was considering buying Aurinia, which started selling its treatment for lupus nephritis earlier this year. The stock soared by 27 per cent that day and has continued to trade higher, closing at US$30.35 a share Tuesday, giving it a market capitalization of US$3.9-billion.

Pfizer to buy Canadian ‘blockbuster’ cancer drug developer Trillium Therapeutics in $2.26-billion deal

With Trillium, Pfizer is gaining access to two drug candidates, known as TTI-622 and TTI-621, designed to fight tumours by blocking the “don’t eat me” signals that are sent by the cancerous growth to the immune system, and stimulating the body to attack the cancerous growths.

So far, TTI-622 has been well tolerated by human subjects in its continuing safety trial involving 43 patients, while TTI-621 has shown efficacy in a continuing study of 30 patients, Pfizer said. Both drugs must successfully complete trials showing they work as intended on cancer patients before gaining regulatory approvals that allow them to be sold, a process expected to last several years.

Pfizer executives have been encouraged by the early clinical data and stated in August that Trillium products could contribute blockbuster revenues in the critical 2026 to 2030 time frame when the pharma giant’s patents on top-selling drugs Prevnar 13, Eliquis and Xtandi expire, which analysts expect will result in billions of dollars in lost sales.

The deal, which is subject to court and regulatory approvals, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year or the first half of 2022, Trillium said.

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