Celgene inks first deals since Bristol-Myers announced $74B buyout — bets $80M on immunometabolism

Celgene may be busy wrapping up the biggest deal in its existence — the proposed $74 billion sale to Bristol-Myers Squibb — but it’s still snapping up options to nascent immuno-oncology drugs while it can.

The latest tie-up involves Kyn Therapeutics, a Boston startup backed by Atlas Venture and OrbiMed to go after metabolites that keep the immune system from attacking cancer. For $80 million upfront and an undisclosed equity investment, Celgene obtains exclusive options to two of these immunometabolism therapies — which they will make a decision about once Kyn is done with the Phase Ib.

Robert Hershberg

Both programs have something to do with TDO and IDO, the latter being a pathway Bristol-Myers has gambled $800 million on — only to hastily halt two Phase IIIs in the wake of a rout in the field. But instead of directly and only inhibiting IDO, Kyn has developed drugs to degrade kynurenine or antagonize the aryl hydrocarbon receptor to prevent their binding, which would result in broad suppression of the immune system.

The collaboration signals Celgene’s “continued commitment to work with partners,” said Robert Hershberg, head of business development and global alliances.

And not just with Kyn, either. Cambridge, MA-based Obsidian Therapeutics says it’s also scored a collaboration with Celgene featuring an exclusive option to in-license its destabilizing domain technology, which it calls an “operating system” for living medicines like CAR-T. It adds that the pact focuses on DD-regulated IL12 and CD40L, but is keeping quiet about the financials.

Here’s CEO Michael Gilman on the experience:

Once one of the industry’s most active dealmakers, Celgene has a rep for offering a supportive role for its smaller partners and paying top dollar for its best prospects.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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