It’s been a busy year for mergers and acquisitions in the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical industries. Combined spending on M&A is close to $268 billion mid-way through December, with 229 transactions reported. Although the number of deals is 34% lower than 2018’s combined total of 345, spending skyrocketed 62%, from just $165 billion in all of 2018.

Two recent deals from major drug manufacturers highlight what’s behind the trend. On December 9, Sanofi announced its $2.5 billion acquisition of Synthorx, Inc. (NASDAQ: THOR), a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on treating cancer and autoimmune disorders. The price consists of $68 per share, a 172% premium to Synthorx’s closing price on December 6.

On the same day, Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) announced its agreement to buy ArQule, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARQL), a biopharmaceutical company researching and developing targeted therapeutics to treat cancers and rare Indiseases. The $2.7 billion price consists of $20 per share in cash.

In all, some 72 transactions in 2019 have targeted companies doing R&D on cancer treatments or a specific clinical-stage program with the same focus. Combined spending this year hit $97 billion in mid-December, primarily because of Bristol-Myers Squibb‘s (NYSE: BMY) $74 billion takeover of Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ: CELG), the global biopharmaceutical focused on treatments for cancer and inflammatory diseases.