Celgene Enters $105 Million Cancer Immunotherapy Collaboration with Lycera

Celgene has entered into a new cancer immunotherapy deal that could provide privately-held Lycera Corp. up to $105 million-plus.

Lycera announced the formation of an exclusive global collaboration with Celgene to advance Lycera’s proprietary pipeline for cancer and immune-mediated diseases. Lycera said that Celgene will license its portfolio of RORgamma agonists to develop new cancer immunotherapies, as well as continue developing Lycera’s lead candidate, currently in early-stage development for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Under the deal, Celgene is paying an upfront payment of $82.5 million in cash. The upfront payment includes an exclusive option for Celgene to license Lycera’s portfolio of ex vivo RORgamma agonist compounds. Additionally, Lycera has the potential to receive near term payments of an additional $22.5 million associated with the ex vivo licensing option rights. Celgene will also have the exclusive right to acquire the drugmaker upon conclusion of the option period.

Lycera has discovered selective and potent oral agonists that target RORgamma, a master control switch of immune system activation, for the potential treatment of various cancers. The company has developed orally bioavailable RORgamma agonists, which have demonstrated single agent therapeutic activity in several animal models of cancer. Ex vivo treatment with RORgamma agonist compounds has been shown to enhance the therapeutic benefit of adoptive T-cell therapy by improving both immune cell persistence and activation.

“Lycera is making rapid progress in advancing novel oral immune modulatory compounds, for the treatment of cancer and immune disease, which are highly complementary to Celgene’s platform,” said Tom Daniel, President Research & Early Development of Celgene. “The collaboration will further acceleration of these efforts, with the ultimate goal of realizing a substantial impact on patient care.”

The collaboration also includes Lycera’s lead candidate LYC-30937, which is being studied for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with the goal of delivering significant disease improvement without immune suppression. Under the agreement, Lycera will also continue to advance its other programs including a Rho-associated protein kinase 2 (ROCK2) inhibitor.

“We are excited to be working with Celgene, as we share a commitment to develop disruptive scientific approaches that can translate into disease-altering medicines for patients,” said Paul Sekhri, President and CEO of Lycera Copr. “Celgene made clear that they valued both our world class team and scientific excellence. This investment and strategic collaboration will allow our company to continue to capitalize on the productive research and development pipeline we have established.”

Celgene’s VP Business Development and Licensing at Celgene, George Golumbeski Sr., said that Lycera’s two programs created are based on “breakthrough science.”Lycera was founded in 2006, based on the University of Michigan’s scientific platform, aimed at using T-cell technology to mediate inflammation.

Source: Lycera Corp.

Last updated: 6/9/15; 4:10pm EST

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