Scoop: Cel­gene tar­gets a cure for myelo­ma/lym­phoma with $600M En­gMab buy­out

Cel­gene Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man Bob Hug­in

Cel­gene has com­plet­ed a deal to ac­quire the Swiss biotech En­gMab for $600 mil­lion, adding a new BC­MA-tar­get­ing mul­ti­ple myelo­ma pro­gram to the pipeline, End­points News has learned. And it’s putting the new tech to work with its on­go­ing ef­forts on CAR-T and CD-3 an­ti­bod­ies with an eye on find­ing a cure for myelo­ma and lym­phoma.

A Cel­gene spokesper­son con­firmed the deal to me in a state­ment Fri­day morn­ing, say­ing that “we are ac­quir­ing En­gmab for $600 mil­lion.”

“B-cell mat­u­ra­tion anti­gen (BC­MA) is high­ly and se­lec­tive­ly ex­pressed on the sur­face of ma­lig­nant plas­ma cells in MM and tar­get of high val­ue for im­mune based ther­a­pies such as re-en­gi­neered au­tol­o­gous T-CAR-T and the re-di­rec­tion of CD4+ and CD8+ T lym­pho­cytes via an­ti-CD3 bi-spe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies,” he said. Cel­gene added:

Through this ac­qui­si­tion, Cel­gene is now unique­ly po­si­tioned to pur­sue BC­MA de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties us­ing both CAR-T and CD-3- redi­rect­ed killing plat­forms. Both ap­proach­es and as­sets pro­vide the op­por­tu­ni­ty for best in class as­sets.

We see both this and the Blue­bird BC­MA plat­form as high­ly com­ple­men­tary with the po­ten­tial to be cu­ra­tive.  In ad­di­tion to mono-ther­a­py in Myelo­ma pa­tients, both plat­forms pro­vide the op­por­tu­ni­ty for ra­tio­nal com­bi­na­tion ther­a­pies with CELMods and Check­point in­hibitors in or­der to fur­ther im­prove treat­ment ef­fi­ca­cy, as well as clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in oth­er BC­MA ex­press­ing B-cell ma­lig­nan­cies such as lym­phoma.

B-cell mat­u­ra­tion anti­gen, a tar­get com­mon­ly ex­pressed on mul­ti­ple myelo­ma cells, is a hot fo­cus at Cel­gene. The big biotech re­struc­tured its deal with blue­bird bio $blue last year to go af­ter BC­MA.

Jef­feries’ Bri­an Abra­hams high­light­ed signs of a pend­ing deal a cou­ple of weeks ago, not­ing that En­gMab has been work­ing on sev­er­al T cell-re­cruit­ing an­ti­bod­ies that ze­ro in on BC­MA.

Ac­cord­ing to En­gMab’s web site, the biotech has been la­bor­ing on T-cell bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies, which are de­signed to bring im­mune cells in­to con­tact with a tar­get on can­cer cells, a forcible head butt that should de­stroy the can­cer cell. And its in­ves­ti­ga­tors showed up at ASH late last year to talk up their work on mul­ti­ple myelo­ma.

Cel­gene is the leader in the mul­ti­ple myelo­ma mar­ket, dom­i­nat­ing the field with Revlim­id and Po­m­a­lyst while J&J and Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb have jumped in with Darza­lex and Em­plic­i­ti. And it has good rea­son to go af­ter BC­MA, a tar­get that is present at an es­ti­mat­ed 60% to 70% of all mul­ti­ple myelo­ma cas­es.

This is the lat­est in a long string of high-pro­file M&A and li­cens­ing deals for Cel­gene, which has been in­vest­ing heav­i­ly in its pipeline un­der ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Bob Hug­in. Hug­in will like­ly find him­self back in the spot­light to­day, as an­a­lysts won­der whether the com­pa­ny is pay­ing too much for its pro­grams. But Hug­in has al­ways said that there’s no re­al way to say if you’ve paid too much or too lit­tle. The drugs that work are al­ways ac­quired for a small price. The ones that don’t work are al­ways too ex­pen­sive.

Share­hold­ers seem to be lov­ing it to­day, bid­ding up Cel­gene’s shares by 2% in the ear­ly af­ter­noon.

Cel­gene is far from alone in the field. In a note out this morn­ing, Abra­hams cites the blue­bird pro­gram along with an ef­fort by the NCI, both in the clin­ic. “GSK has a BC­MA-tar­get­ed ADC (GSK2857916) and AMGN has a bis­pe­cif­ic (AMG420) al­so in ph.I tri­als,” the an­a­lyst adds. “JUNO and the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Bio­med­ical Re­search al­so ap­par­ent­ly have (a) pre­clin­i­cal BC­MA pro­gram.”

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