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Jazz Pharmaceuticals to buy Celator Pharmaceuticals

Deal worth $1.5 billion brings promising nanoparticle-based cancer drug

by Ann M. Thayer
June 2, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 23

Image of cancer drug-containing nanoscale-liposomes being engulfed by leukemia cells.
Credit: Celator Pharmaceuticals
Dual cancer drug-containing nanoscale-liposomes (blue) with diameters of about 100 nm are engulfed by leukemia cells (red).

Jazz Pharmaceuticals will pay $1.5 billion in cash to acquire Celator Pharmaceuticals and its lead cancer drug Vyxeos. The deal fits Jazz’s business model of in-licensing products and acquiring companies in the areas of sleep, pain, hematology, and oncology.

Vyxeos is a nanoscale liposomal formulation of the decades-old chemotherapy drugs cytarabine and daunorubicin. Encapsulation maintains a synergistic 5:1 ratio of the drugs and helps deliver them preferentially to cancer cells, a strategy that may increase efficacy and reduce toxicity, Celator says.

In mid-May, FDA awarded breakthrough therapy designation to Vyxeos for treating adults with certain forms of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). FDA had previously designated Vyxeos as an orphan drug and given it fast-track status. Celator anticipates filing for approval next quarter.

AML is the most common form of leukemia in adults and has a poor prognosis even with treatment. According to the companies, Vyxeos is the first candidate in about 20 years to show a statistically significant improvement in survival.

Jazz’s big bet on Celator comes just one month after another prominent nanomedicine firm, Bind Therapeutics, filed for bankruptcy while trying to advance its cancer-cell-targeting polymeric nanoparticles.


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