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Celgene bolsters blood cancer portfolio with $600m EngMab buy

Consolidates position as top company in current multiple myeloma market
Celgene

Swiss start-up EngMab has been snapped up by Celgene in a $600m deal that adds another multiple myeloma candidate to the US biotech's already formidable blood cancer franchise.

Privately-held EngMab's lead programme focuses on bispecific antibodies designed to activate T lymphocytes against B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA), a protein expressed at high levels on the surface of multiple myeloma cells.

At last year's American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting, EngMab gave two presentations showing how antibodies binding the CD3 receptor on T cells and BCMA were able to selectively kill myeloma cells. Celgene's chief executive Mark Alles said he expects the lead antibody to start clinical trials next year.

BCMA is a proven draw for Celgene, which already has a collaboration in place with Bluebird Bio for that target focusing on an early-stage candidate called bb2121.

In that case, BCMA is being harnessed in the development of CAR-T, an emerging immuno-oncology technology that relies on the use of modified immune cells that are engineered to attack and destroy malignant cells. bb2121 started phase I testing earlier this year.

EngMab consolidates Celgene's position as the top company in the multiple myeloma market at the moment, thanks to blockbuster drugs Revlimid (lenalidomide) and Pomalyst (pomalidomide), which brought in $5.8bn and $983m respectively in sales last year.

Rumours of the deal first emerged a couple of weeks ago, when analysts at Jefferies said a deal looked likely and would allow Celgene to enter the emerging market for multiple myeloma antibodies, having been late to pick up on the opportunity presented by anti-CD38 drugs such as Johnson & Johnson's Darzalex (daratumumab).

BCMA-targeting drugs are also being developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Amgen, both of which have candidates in phase I clinical testing, as well as the US National Cancer Institute.

Article by
Phil Taylor

4th October 2016

From: Sales

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