What You May Have Missed In Biotech: Celgene’s $1B Bet On Cancer Immunotherapy, And A New CF Drug

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One U.S. biotech company is celebrating Independence Day weekend with a fresh $1 billion in cash from a corporate partner, which it was able to secure without giving up its corporate independence.

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Juno Secures $1B in Cancer Deal With Celgene

Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics was the talk of the industry this week. The developer of engineered T-cell therapies that fight cancer said it formed a partnership with Summit, NJ-based Celgene that delivered the small company a cool $1 billion in real money, not the usual future milestone payments that never materialize. Juno is getting $150 million in upfront cash, and sold 9.1 million shares of its stock to Celgene at $93 apiece—twice the market value before the deal was announced. The way the deal was structured, Celgene will have the right to nominate one director on the Juno board, and may be able to purchase as much as 30 percent of the company’s stock, but it still leaves Juno in position to chart its own course in the fast-moving field of immuno-oncology. For more of the details, see the press release, and the Wall Street Journal’s coverage.

Vertex Takes Next Big Step in Cystic Fibrosis

Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals won FDA approval this week for its new two-drug combo for cystic fibrosis. The drug, lumacaftor/ivacaftor (Orkambi), is designed to work for a broader swath of the CF population than the company’s first compound against the disease, ivacaftor (Kalydeco), which is meant for about 4 percent of patients. Orkambi was priced at $259,000 a year, or “the upper end of investor predictions,” as Adam Feuerstein of TheStreet.com reported. At that price, and with potential to reach thousands of more CF patients, Vertex should soon turn into a consistently profitable company for the first time in its 25-year history.

How Aggressively Should Dwarfism Be Treated?

San Rafael, Calif.-based BioMarin Pharmaceutical has excited researchers and investors with a new drug in development that can lengthen the bones of little people, and in the process it has stirred a debate about the medical need. Bloomberg News had a nice feature about the issue this week, which included voices of parents.

Biogen Antes Up $124M for Gene Therapy

Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen paid $124 million upfront to Gainesville, Fla.-based AGTC for the right to co-develop gene therapies for ophthalmology conditions. Menlo Park, Calif.-based Avalanche Biotechnologies recently released disappointing clinical data, but gene therapy for the eye has generally experienced a resurgence in the last couple years, partly because delivery to the eye is thought to be less complicated than to other organs. See Xconomy for more on the Biogen/AGTC collaboration.

AstraZeneca’s Antibiotic Spinout Emerges

AstraZeneca, as part of a broad effort to re-organize its pharmaceutical R&D, announced plans months ago to spin out its Massachusetts-based antibiotic work into a new company. This week, the effort came out with a new corporate name (Entasis Therapeutics), management team, and plan. See FierceBiotech for the details.

Luke Timmerman is the founder and editor of Timmerman Report, a subscription publication for biotech insiders.

Source: Forbes