Celgene forms R&D consortium with four US cancer centres

Celgene has linked up with four major US cancer centres to form a consortium dedicated to accelerating research and development of new therapies and diagnostics.

The research consortium features The Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University Medical Center, the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, and the Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Celgene paid each institution $12.5 million for the option to enter into future agreements to develop and commercialise cancer therapies arising from the consortium’s efforts.

Over the next ten years, the institutions will present high-impact research programmes to Celgene with the goal of developing new life-saving therapies.

Each programme could be valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, Celgene said.

The four institutions collectively care for more than 30,000 new cancer patients each year, and have nearly 800 active researchers.

Celgene is targeting $21 billion in sales by 2020, although in Q1 it adjusted revenues downwards from $13-14 billion, to between $12.7-13 billion.

Having built its business on blood cancer drugs, such as its best-seller, Revlimid (lenalidomide) for multiple myeloma, the company is looking to expand into other fields of oncology, as well as in areas such as multiple sclerosis through its $7.2 billion purchase of Receptos last year.

This latest cancer deal is a further attempt by Celgene to place itself at the forefront of cancer drug R&D, following a decade-long deal with biotech Juno Therapeutics to develop the latest in CAR T-cell therapies.

These T-cell driven therapies are expected to form the next wave of cancer immunotherapies, which turns the power of the body’s immune system against tumours.

Celgene did not give details of the kind therapies that it hopes will arise from the consortium.

But Celgene’s executive chairman, Bob Hugin, described the collaboration as “paradigm-shifting”.

“We remain firmly committed to driving critical advances in cancer and believe the tremendous expertise of our collaboration partner institutions will be invaluable in identifying new therapies for cancer patients,” Hugin added.

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