Celgene locks down option to buy autoimmune drugmaker

Dive Brief:

  • Swiss biotech Anokion has sealed a multimillion dollar deal with Celgene to develop candidates in the expanding area of tolerance-inducing autoimmune disease therapeutics.
  • The deal gives Celgene an equity interest in Anokion and the exclusive right to acquire the smaller drugmaker at undisclosed but pre-specified "option exercise points."
  • The privately-held company stands to receive $45 million upfront under the collaboration and could bring in an additional $10 million if they reach certain preclinical development milestones.

​Dive Insight:

Patients with autoimmune diseases have immune systems that see natural proteins as foreign and attack them. Anokion's approach to treating such diseases is to use tolerance mechanisms in the body to reeducate the immune system. The company's technology also allows it to create proteins masked as native to the body that can dial down immune system responses to beneficial drugs.

Other companies looking at immune tolerance restoration include Parvus Therapeutics, with programs in type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and liver disease in preclinical development, and Selecta Biosciences, whose immune tolerance pipeline includes type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. The global autoimmune disease market could be worth almost $16 billion by 2022, with a projected compound annual growth rate of almost 4%, according an April report from market intelligence firm Intelliroi

Celgene's pipeline is currently skewed towards cancer, but its collaboration with Anokion and other recent deals — including one with Evotec aimed at early-stage drugs for neurodegenerative diseases and its takeover of Acetylon, which gave it access to the target's HDAC6 inhibitor program — are building up and diversifying the biopharma company's potential products.

Anokion, a spinoff from the Swiss Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, was founded in 2010. Celgene isn't the startup's first big deal, however; in June 2015, Anokion and Japanese company Astellas Pharma created Kanyos Bio to develop potential therapeutics for celiac disease and type 1 diabetes in an agreement worth up to $760 million.

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Filed Under: Mergers and Acquisitions / Deals