Celgene joins the heavyweight partner club collaborating with Nimbus

The Nimbus Therapeutics team has a good track record for finding the ideal partner.

There was Gilead $GILD on NASH — with a massive $600 million in upfront and near-term cash — and Genentech stepped in to grab rights to an IRAK4 cancer program from the computational chemistry experts at Nimbus. And now you can add Celgene $CELG, which is tying up with Nimbus on two new therapeutic approaches for its growing inflammation/immunology pipeline.

These are the only two programs specified on Nimbus’ preclinical pipeline chart online: Tyk2 and STING. Tyk2 influences pro-inflammatory cytokine receptors, including IL-23, IL-12 and type-I interferons, which gives it a full laundry list of potential indications, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis and Crohn’s. Blocking STING — Nimbus is keeping an agonist effort underway for itself — could also work in lupus and other diseases.

Don Nicholson

The Tyk2 target has been particularly challenging, says Nimbus CEO Don Nicholson. The key is zeroing in on Tyk2 while leaving the rest of the  JAK family of kinases unmolested — no easy task.

In addition, he says, the “allosteric site is hard to tackle. We resolved that technically. In addition, we now have functional selectivity in human cell based assays everyone has coveted.”

The deal rings all the right bells for Celgene, says Rupert Vessey, Celgene’s EVP for early research.

“The science is strong,” says Vessey, “with good validation for both these targets in human biology and human genetics. The Nimbus team is known to us; it’s outstanding.”

Rupert Vessey

Celgene is well known for its restless search for innovation wherever it can find it in the world. And this deal fits into its sweet spot, leaving the early-stage work to the innovators who started it while providing ample funding to get these programs to the point they can demonstrate clear potential in humans.

Neither Nimbus or Celgene are talking specific dollar terms today. That can wait to the day if and when the big biotech decides to take up its options.

In the meantime, Nicholson says he is just as focused as ever on building an internal pipeline of drug candidates to complement the major league partnership deals Nimbus has set up to reward investors.

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

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