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Celgene signs $3.3bn cancer deal with OncoMed

Includes lead candidate demcizumab

Shares in OncoMed headed skyward yesterday after Celgene licensed six of its anti-cancer stem cell (CSC) products in a deal worth up to $3.3bn.

The massive deal includes $177.25m in upfront fees, including $22.5m for a 5 per cent stake in California-based OncoMed, and more than $3bn in potential milestone payments if all six of the candidates reach the market.

All of the projects involve drugs that target CSCs, a group of cells found in tumours with the capacity to self-renew and differentiate, leading to tumour initiation and driving growth, recurrence and metastasis of the cancer. 

The lead project in the collaboration is demcizumab (OMP-21M18), an antibody targeting a key signalling pathway in CSCs called delta-like ligand 4 (DLL4). The drug has reached phase Ib testing in pancreatic cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

The agreement calls for Celgene and OncoMed to co-develop demcizumab, with Celgene bearing two thirds of the costs. If it comes to market OncoMed will receive up to $790m in milestones and it will also have US co-marketing rights and a 50:50 profit-sharing basis. Outside the US, Celgene has exclusive marketing rights with OncoMed due for tiered double-digit royalties on sales.

"Demcizumab's substantial early clinical activity warrants aggressive yet careful evaluation in several indications where we have strength," said Celgene's research and early development head Tom Daniel. Celgene already sells Abraxane (albumin-bound paclitaxel) for both NSCLC and pancreatic cancer, amongst other indications, and has a number of other solid tumour therapes in its pipeline.

The second OncoMed biologic - a bispecific antibody targeting both DLL4 and VEGF in preclinical testing  - could lead to funding and milestone payments of up to $505m, while four other biologics targeting either the RSPO-LGR CSC pathway or an additional undisclosed CSC pathway  in early-stage development could net $440m apiece.

Celgene will take a decision on whether to exercise an exclusive license option on these five candidates after the completion of phase I trials.

OncoMed shares more than doubled on the announcement, which provides another major affirmation of its technology platform following licensing deals with Bayer for four candidates and GlaxoSmithKline for another two, including anti-Notch2/3 antibody OMP-59R5 which is in phase Ib testing.

Celgene's shares actually slipped a couple of points on the news, suggesting investors may be concerned about the size of the investment, although analysts suggested that it will be viewed as cheap if the CSC approach proves its worth in efficacy trials.

Article by
Phil Taylor

4th December 2013

From: Research

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