Celgene commits to deeper CAR-T partnership with Juno
Celgene has taken an option to develop and commercialise certain CAR-T immunotherapy drugs developed by Juno Therapeutics, which are being developed in blood cancer.
Celgene began a $1 billion, decade-long collaboration with the Seattle-based biotech last year, and will now pay it a further $50 million and share global development expenses for products in the CD19 programme.
CAR-T technology promises to be the 'next big thing' in blood cancers and other tumour types, with Juno among the pioneers in the field, alongside the likes of Novartis, Kite, bluebird and Cellectis.
There are however many technical challenges to overcome, with each of the rival firms investing heavily in new drug development and manufacturing capabilities.
The CD-19 targetting approach is the most common one. These drugs bind to genetically engineered CAR T-cells, holding them in place next to the cancer cell and triggering their activation and instructing them to kill the cancer cell.
Celgene has exercised an option under the deal for commercial rights outside of North America and China to the programme.
It will pay Juno a royalty at a percentage in the mid-teens of any future net sales of CD19 products. Juno retains commercialisation rights in North America and China.
Juno has three CD-19 directed product candidates in clinical development – JCAR015, JCAR017 and JCAR014.
JCAR015 is in phase 2 development for adult relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, while JCAR017 is in phase 1 for paediatric and adult relapsed refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and relapsed refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
JCAR014 is in phase 1 for adult ALL, NHL and CLL and is also being trialled in combination with AstraZeneca's investigational programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) immune checkpoint inhibitor, durvalumab.
The future of haemato-oncology is particularly important for Celgene, as it has build its business on drugs for these conditions. It's biggest seller is Revlimid (lenalidomide), its multiple myeloma drug which earned over $5 billion last year.
Celgene and Juno last year began a ten year cancer immunotherapy collaboration, where Celgene paid $1 billion to Juno, including the purchase of around 9 million shares, giving Celgene an option to commercialise Juno projects outside North America and co-promote certain programmes globally.
Juno also has an option to co-develop and co-promote certain Celgene programmes.