Celgene says it will buy Juno Therapeutics for $9 billion in a deal that could make Celgene a world leader in immuno-oncology treatments. Specifically, the Jan. 22 deal gives the New Jersey-based company access to an experimental gene therapy for treating people with relapsed or refractory aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Juno, headquartered in Seattle, has been a pioneer in CAR T-cell and TCR therapies. CAR T-cell is short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell, and TCR for T-cell receptor.
CAR-T therapy involves genetically manipulating a patient’s own T-cells to attack proteins associated with cancer, then infusing them back into the patient.
News of the acquisition comes two weeks after Celgene said it would buy San Diego-based Impact Biomedicines for $7 billion. That takeover, announced Jan. 7, will allow Celgene to add fedratinib to its pipeline of blood cancer therapies.
“The acquisition of Juno builds on our shared vision to discover and develop transformative medicines for patients with incurable blood cancers,” Mark J. Alles, Celgene’s CEO, said in a press release. “Juno’s advanced cellular immunotherapy portfolio and research capabilities strengthen Celgene’s global leadership in hematology [blood disease therapies] and adds new drivers for growth beyond 2020.”
Leading that growth, Alles said, will be JCAR017 (lisocabtagene maraleucel; liso-cel). Celgene anticipates that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will approve it in 2019 as a treatment for relapsed and refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. If so, it alone is likely to add $3 billion to Celgene’s annual revenue.
Another potential treatment, JCARH125, will “enhance Celgene’s campaign against BCMA (B-cell maturation antigen), a key target in multiple myeloma,” said Alles, whose company was founded in 1986.
CNBC-TV had reported that “the clock was ticking for Celgene” because in 2022 it will lose patent protection for Revlimid, its top-selling multiple myeloma therapy. Revlimid generated 60 percent of the company’s fiscal third-quarter revenue of nearly $3.3 billion.
David Nierengarten, head of healthcare equity research at Wedbush Securities, told the network that “Celgene has a big revenue hole to fill over the next few years.” Juno’s CAR T-cell therapies could “fill that gap,” he said.
Celgene, which had held 9.7 percent of Juno before the merger, agreed to pay $87 per share for the rest of the company. It has more than 7,000 employees worldwide and annual sales of $11 billion. By 2020, the combined pharmaceutical giant expects to see annual revenues of $19 billion.
Celgene and Juno had been collaborating since June 2015, when they agreed to jointly develop treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases, with an initial focus on CAR T-cell and TCR technologies.
“The people at Juno channel their passion for science and patients towards a common goal of finding cures by creating cell therapies that help people live longer, better lives,” said Hans Bishop, Juno’s president and CEO. “Continuing this work will take scientific prowess, excellence and global reach. This union will provide all three.”
Celgene said it would use Juno’s Seattle facilities to expand the company’s research in immuno-oncology translational medicine.
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