Cel­gene scoops up fresh­man au­toim­mune start­up Delinia in $775M buy­out

Four months ago, At­las Ven­ture part­ner Saurabh Sa­ha set up shop at the new­born Delinia with a pre­clin­i­cal au­toim­mune drug, $35 mil­lion in start­up cash and a skele­ton crew. To­day, Cel­gene says it struck a deal to buy the start­up for $300 mil­lion up front and up to $475 mil­lion in mile­stones, adding a new drug for its au­toim­mune and in­flam­ma­tion pipeline.

Cel­gene is get­ting a pre­clin­i­cal lead pro­gram in the deal, which cen­ters pri­mar­i­ly on DEL106, as well as re­lat­ed sec­ond gen­er­a­tion pro­grams. DEL106 is an IL-2 mutein Fc fu­sion pro­tein de­signed to up­reg­u­late reg­u­la­to­ry T cells (Tregs), im­mune cells that are crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing nat­ur­al self-tol­er­ance — and avoid­ing au­toim­mune dis­eases.

There’s a long list of dis­eases trig­gered when the bal­ance of Tregs and T ef­fec­tor cells is dis­rupt­ed and the im­mune sys­tem starts to at­tack healthy tis­sue. By ex­pand­ing Tregs, amp­ing up ac­tiv­i­ty, Sa­ha set out be­liev­ing that Delinia’s drug can re­store im­mune tol­er­ance and home­osta­sis, stop­ping dis­eases like lu­pus, Type 1 dis­eases and fi­brot­ic dis­eases like scle­ro­der­ma.

The deal clear­ly comes with a big cash pay­out to At­las — which has nev­er been re­luc­tant to take a good mul­ti­ple for ear­ly-stage as­sets like this — as well as Sofinno­va Part­ners, the Paris-based VC group that co-led the round. And there’s al­so plen­ty of up­side left if the tech works as hoped. For Cel­gene, it’s yet an­oth­er ac­qui­si­tion for a deal team that has been strik­ing a broad range of pacts over the years.

In a blog post this morn­ing, At­las’ Bruce Booth wrote:

Over the past decade, Cel­gene has built an im­pres­sive I&I port­fo­lio of both in­ter­nal­ly-dis­cov­ered and ex­ter­nal­ly-sourced pro­grams. Ote­zla (apremi­last) is their flag­ship I&I med­i­cine to­day (fastest pso­ri­a­sis drug to hit $1B in sales from launch) and was dis­cov­ered at Cel­gene; be­hind it are sev­er­al ad­di­tion­al home­grown pro­grams ear­li­er in de­vel­op­ment (e.g., im­munomod­u­la­tor CC-220 and an­ti-fi­brot­ic CC-90001). Cel­gene’s I&I pipeline al­so has sev­er­al high pro­file ex­ter­nal­ly-sourced ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing mon­gersen/GED-0301 (via a li­cense with No­gra Phar­ma) and ozan­i­mod (via ac­qui­si­tion of Re­cep­tos). They’ve al­so been at the fore­front of chang­ing the au­toim­mune treat­ment par­a­digm, such as with the re­cent deal with Anokion on tol­er­ance in­duc­tion. The Delinia pro­grams fit nice­ly in­to this grow­ing port­fo­lio, and com­ple­ment sev­er­al of these I&I ap­proach­es – which was a big dri­ver for Cel­gene’s over­all in­ter­est in the sto­ry.

Delinia ex­ecs Sa­ha and Jeff Tong, chair­man, told me in a fol­low-up in­ter­view that the ear­ly buy­out came up as they be­gan to strike up in­tro­duc­to­ry con­tacts aimed at es­tab­lish­ing some longterm talks with key play­ers in the field. Their sto­ry of a new tech­nol­o­gy that could have a pro­found im­pact on au­toim­mune dis­eases — even though it was still pre­clin­i­cal — at­tract­ed keen at­ten­tion from sev­er­al play­ers, in­clud­ing an un­ex­pect­ed in­bound call from one com­pa­ny that helped get the bid­ding go­ing for far more than what At­las had in­vest­ed in seed and ear­ly A cash.

“It was not a for­mal auc­tion,” Tong tells me, “but there was a very com­pet­i­tive lev­el of in­ter­est.”

Not yet de­cid­ed is what hap­pens with the Delinia team. Sa­ha says those dis­cus­sions are con­tin­u­ing with Cel­gene.

Co-founder and the new chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer at Delinia, Jef­frey Greve, is cred­it­ed with much of the dis­cov­ery work for their cy­tokine. Com­pa­ny co-founder Michael Rosen­blum is the as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of der­ma­tol­ogy at the UCSF School of Med­i­cine.

“Delinia is at the fore­front of ad­vanc­ing new ap­proach­es to treat­ing pa­tients with se­vere and de­bil­i­tat­ing au­toim­mune dis­eases,” said Ru­pert Vessey, FR­CP DPhil, Pres­i­dent of Re­search and Ear­ly De­vel­op­ment for Cel­gene Cor­po­ra­tion. “We look for­ward to pro­gress­ing DEL106 in­to the clin­ic next year.”

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group under José Baselga keeps churning out hits.

Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 57,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.