Celgene, following BMS buyout, forms two immuno-oncology partnerships

The company said Friday morning that it would partner with two companies, Kyn Therapeutics and Obsidian Therapeutics.

Fresh on the heels of the first major biopharma acquisition deal of the year, Celgene has entered two partnerships with companies involved in immuno-oncology.

On Friday, Kyn Therapeutics and Obsidian Therapeutics – based respectively in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts – said they had formed collaborative agreements with Celgene. Bristol-Myers Squibb agreed to acquire Celgene for $74 billion earlier this month.

Under the Kyn agreement, Celgene will pay the company $80 million upfront and an equity investment for the option to exclusively license its development programs, aryl hydrocarbon receptor antagonist, or AHR, and Kynase, whose name stands for kynurenine-degrading enzyme. AHR and kynurenine are being investigated due to their association with immunosuppression in several tumor types. Kyn will remain responsible for development through Phase Ib clinical trials, after which Celgene will have the option to lead and fund global development and commercialization. Both the Kynase and AHR programs are in preclinical development.

The Obsidian agreement involves an unspecified upfront payment and equity investment, with the potential for future milestone payments and royalties. Obsidian is developing technology that allows for “tunable” cell and gene therapies with controllable functions, using “destabilizing domains” to allow genes introduced into cells to be pharmacologically regulated.

The deal allows Celgene to in-license global rights to cell therapy product candidates that incorporate destabilizing domain-regulated IL12 or CD40L for the treatment of cancer.

“Obsidian’s technology has the potential to unlock the activity of cell therapy in a number of new settings, particularly against solid tumor malignancies, and this is a prime example of the new technologies that we see enabling broader applications for CAR-T and cell therapies for the treatment of cancer,” said Celgene executive vice president for business development and global alliances Robert Hershberg, in a statement.

Celgene has a significant presence in CAR-T therapies already. One of its lead products is bb2121, a CAR-T for multiple myeloma it is developing in partnership with bluebird bio. In addition, last year it bought Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics, whose lead product is lisocabtagene maraleucel, a CAR-T for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

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