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Celgene expands immunotherapy pipeline with Sutro

Published on 27/10/14 at 01:52pm
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Celgene has extended its collaboration with Sutro Biopharma and added a buyout option for the firm as the two companies look to expand in the promising area of immuno-oncology medicines.

The new deal between Celgene and Sutro will see the companies working on established targets like PD-1 and PD-L1, as well as new targets, using Sutro’s cell-free biologics development platforms Xpress CF and Xpress CF+.

Sutro hopes that these platforms will make antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) – which combine the targeting abilities of antibodies with the cancer cell-killing abilities of certain drugs – easier to manufacture.

“Substantive progress and unique advantages of Sutro’s platform have led us to expand and extend our relationship as a key capability supporting our emerging immuno-oncology pipeline,” says Thomas Daniel, Celgene’s president of global research and early development.

“We see this collaboration as a unique opportunity to accelerate the evaluation and development of important products in this and other strategic areas of high potential impact.

“Sutro has been a strong partner expanding a potentially disruptive technology, and we look forward to building on the existing collaboration.”

Immuno-oncology aims to treat cancer by using the body’s own immune system against tumours, and has attracted a host of big pharma firms including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Janssen and Boehringer Ingelheim.

But Celgene is not the only company to have noticed the potential of Sutro’s work – Johnson and Johnson, Sanofi and Merck KGaA have all also signed on as partners.

The two US firms originally partnered in 2012 to develop new ADCs and bispecific antibodies, with Sutro saying the deal could be worth over $500 million dollars to them. The new expansion doubles this potential gain to $1 billion for reaching certain milestones across all product candidates.

Sutro will receive an upfront payment of $95 million, with the potential to receive a further $90 million for reaching milestones during the initial research term, and will be responsible for the discovery of all multispecific antibodies and ADCs, as well as the manufacturing of pre-clinical product candidates.

Celgene has the option to extend the collaboration beyond the initial term in exchange for an additional payment, and will have the exclusive option to acquire Sutro after an initial period. The firm may assume responsibility for global development and commercialisation, and will have worldwide rights to all collaboration products, except for any that Sutro retains the US rights should the acquisition not go ahead.

Strong growth

Celgene’s extended commitment to immune-oncology will help build on its current success in the area of cancer treatments – its third quarter financial results show its oncology drugs as key drivers behind an impressive $1.9 billion in sales, an increase of 19% from the same period in 2013.

Among the biggest sellers for Celgene this quarter were the myeloma treatments Revlimid (lenalidomide), which increased by 19% to $1.3 billion in sales, and Imvod (pomalidomide), that jumped 102% to $181 million, as well as the chemotherapy drug Abraxane (paclitaxel) which grew a quarter to $212 million.

Another of the firm’s chemotherapy drugs, Vidaza (azacitidine), decreased in sales by 28% thanks to an increase in generic competitors, but still brought in $158 million.

Celgene says that it now expects its total revenue for 2014 to exceed $7.6 billion.

George Underwood

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