Celgene Inks Cancer Deals with Agios Pharmaceuticals and Northern Biologics

Celgene is enhancing its oncology pipeline, striking separate cancer-focused deals with Agios Pharmaceuticals and startup Northern Biologics.

Agios announced it is expanding its partnership with cancer metabolism partner Celgene. The companies have entered into a new joint worldwide development and profit share collaboration for AG-881, a small molecule that has shown to fully penetrate the blood brain barrier and inhibit isocitrate dehydrogenase-1 (IDH1) and IDH2 mutant cancer models in preclinical studies. Agios said that the companies plan to advance into clinical development of AG-881 in the second quarter of 2015.

Celgene is paying $10 million upfront and promising up to $70 million more for a share of the drug. Under the deal, the companies will split development costs and will share any profits equally, with Agios leading commercialization in the US and Celgene leading ex-US commercialization. This new agreement is the third deal between the companies, which originally entered a $120 million deal in 2010 for cancer drug AG-221. Additionally, the companies have partnered for AG-120, which also targets tumors with IDH mutations.

“AG-221 and AG-120 remain our lead medicines in clinical development and are advancing rapidly. We believe the addition of AG-881, given its unique profile, provides added flexibility to our portfolio of IDH inhibitors. Based on our preclinical findings, it has the potential to support our ongoing development effort to provide treatment options to patients with glioma, and it represents a possible second-generation molecule for both AG-221 and AG-120 in IDH mutant tumors. We look forward to generating data for AG-881 to inform our future development plans,” said David Schenkein, MD, chief executive officer of Agios.

Additionally, Celgene is partnering with privately-held Northern Biologics, which is backed by Versant Ventures, to advance first-in-class antibody therapeutics to benefit patients with cancer and fibrosis.

Celgene paid an upfront payment of $30 million in cash to Northern Biologics, which will use the funds to discover and develop novel antibodies. Additionally, the startup has the right to receive additional future payments that support advancing its portfolio. Under the deal, Celgene will have options to in-license drug candidates and will also have the right to acquire Northern Biologics upon conclusion of the collaboration. Northern Biologics will advance its development work from preclinical discovery through human clinical trials.

Celgene’s option to acquire the Versant-backed biotech comes right after a similar deal between Celgene and Versant. In 2011, Celgene paid $45 million for the right to buy Quanticel Pharmaceuticals, which was funded by Versant to develop a single-cell tumor analysis method based on work by Stanford University researchers. On Monday, Celgene announced that it will acquire Quanticel for up to $485 million.

Northern Biologics was launched last June, as the first spinout biotech company from Blueline Bioscience. The company is developing a portfolio of antibody-based therapeutics for oncology and fibrosis.

“Celgene’s collaboration with Northern Biologics represents a valued opportunity to support and advance the strong team and innovative projects Versant and the founders have assembled from the University of Toronto and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre,” said Thomas Daniel, MD, President, Global Research and Early Development at Celgene.

Sources: Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Northern Biologics Inc.

Last updated: 4/29/15; 11:05am EST


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