Amgen And Celgene Acquire Cancer Drug Companies | January 30, 2012 Issue - Vol. 90 Issue 5 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 5 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: January 30, 2012

Amgen And Celgene Acquire Cancer Drug Companies

Department: Business
Keywords: biotechnology, M&A, cancer, antibodies, covalent drugs

Amgen and Celgene are each launching into 2012 with acquisitions that beef up their cancer drug pipelines and add unique technologies.

Amgen will pay $1.2 billion for Micro­met, which brings bispecific T-cell engager (BiTE) antibody technology. BiTE antibodies bind to both tumor cells and T cells, causing cancer cell death and proliferation of more T cells at the tumor site. Amgen also gets blinatumomab, a BiTE antibody in Phase II trials for treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Amgen is purchasing Micromet, whose R&D hub is in Germany, after test-driving its technology. Last July, the companies agreed to jointly develop BiTE antibodies against three solid-tumor targets.

Micromet’s technology has “long-term value,” Leerink Swann stock analyst Joshua Schimmer told investors in a research note. But the price tag, he said, is “higher than we would have wanted to see.”

In a separate deal, Celgene is paying up to $925 million for Avila Therapeutics, a Bedford, Mass.-based biotech company with covalent drug technology. The acquisition includes $350 million in cash; up to $195 million in milestones based on commercialization of Avila’s lead drug candidate, AVL-292; and another $380 million if other drugs stemming from the technology are approved.

Whereas conventional drugs form reversible bonds with their protein targets, a covalent drug permanently links to its mate. The approach seeks to increase potency and selectivity while lowering toxicity. AVL-292, in Phase I testing against lymphoma, permanently blocks Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (Btk), a protein that helps modulate B cells.

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