Menarini Makes Big US Oncology Move with Stemline Acquisition


Menarini Group, the largest Italian pharmaceutical company by turnover, has made its first move into the US oncology market through the acquisition of Stemline Therapeutics.


The deal, said to be worth USD 677 million, was announced on 4 May 2020 and completed on 10 June. The acquisition of Stemline, a commercial-stage firm working on the development and commercialisation of novel oncology therapeutics, will establish a footprint for Menarini in the US as well as enable to the global expansion of Stemline’s ELZONRIS product through leveraging Menarini’s commercial infrastructure in Europe and elsewhere outside of the US.


As a Menarini press release explained about the product, “Stemline launched ELZONRIS for the treatment of blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) in adult and pediatric patients, two years or older, following the approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration in December 2018. ELZONRIS is a novel targeted therapy directed to the interleukin-3 (IL-3) receptor-α (CD123), a target present on a wide range of malignancies. In parallel, Stemline has been evaluating ELZONRIS in clinical trials in additional indications including chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML), myelofibrosis (MF), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and others. Stemline’s additional pipeline candidates include felezonexor (SL-801) (XPO1 inhibitor; Phase 1 in advanced solid tumor patients ongoing) and SL-1001 (RET kinase inhibitor, IND-enabling studies ongoing).” Menarini plans to continue to research ELZONRIS in additional CD123-expressing indications.


At the time of the deal announcement, Menarini CEO Elcin Barker Ergun commented that “We are very excited to complete the acquisition of Stemline and to welcome their accomplished team to Menarini. The addition of ELZONRIS, which has potential to treat many other malignancies, as well as the other attractive pipeline assets augments our research and development capabilities and will accelerate our efforts to deliver novel oncology therapeutics to patients in need.”


This entry into the US market represents a significant moment in the Italian family-owned firm’s history. Present in 136 countries, with EUR 3.793 billion of turnover in 2019 and 17,447 employees, the company’s operations have historically concentrated on Europe, although a presence has been built up in Asia, Central America and Africa in recent years.


The deal is also the most significant moment so far of CEO Barker Ergun’s tenure since being appointed in September 2019. Having spent eight years working in the technology sector in the UK and the Netherlands, Barker Ergun entered the pharmaceutical industry with Smithkline Beecham as subsidiary CFO. She then joined Merck KGaA’s Healthcare business where she covered positions of increasing seniority with global business responsibilities as well as managing R&D collaborations in her last role heading New Business.

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