Delinia adds to Celgene’s immunology ambitions

Celgene has made its first acquisition of the year, snapping up autoimmune disease biotech Delinia for up to $775 million.

The US mid-sized pharma company also announced growing revenues last week, and EU regulators recommended a new use for blood cancer drug Revlimid.

The Delini acquisition could cost Celgene up to $775 million if certain development goals are met, and is centered around DEL106, a novel IL-2 mutein FC fusion protein.

DEL106 is designed to preferentially upregulate regulatory T-Cells (Tregs) that maintain natural self-tolerance and immune system homeostasis.

This could restore immune system balance, benefiting patients with a variety of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Celgene’s strategy is to expand beyond its haemato-oncology core, and is building up a major inflammation and immunology portfolio.

It will pay $300 million upfront for the Cambrige, MA and San Francisco-based biotech, plus up to $475 million more if certain development, regulatory and commercial milestones are met.

It already markets Otezla (apremilast), which has just achieved blockbuster status in psoriasis, and in 2015 bought Receptos and its ozanimod multiple sclerosis drug. And back in 2014, Celgene licensed Nogra Pharma’s mongersen for Crohn’s disease and other indications.

Earlier in January, Celgene announced it had negotiated an option to buy Swiss biotech Anokion, another autoimmune disease specialist.

But the company is best known for its blood cancer drugs, and late on Friday it gained another milestone in this field when EU regulators recommended a new use for its Revlimid (lenalidomide).

Europe’s CHMP scientific committee backed Revlimid as a maintenance treatment for adults with newly-diagnosed multiple myeloma who have undergone autologous stem cell transplantation.

It is the first drug the CHMP has recommended in this use, and the decision will be passed to the European Commission, which will likely grant a marketing authorisation in the coming weeks.

Celgene last week forecast Revlimid sales of $8-8.3 billion for Revlimid this year alone.

In Q4 results published last week, Celgene said net income fell 23.5% to $429 million – but its adjusted profit of $1.61 per share beat analysts’ average estimate.

Total revenue rose 16% for the quarter to $2.98 billion, just short of analysts’ average estimates.

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