- Big biotech Celgene has been looking to expand its cancer-heavy portfolio and pipeline, and tapped drug discovery company Evotec to help that cause.
- In a Thursday statement, Evotec announced a partnership with Celgene aimed at developing new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's.
- Under deal terms, Celgene could pay its partner up to $295 million — comprised of $45 million upfront and $250 million in milestone payments — as well as low double-digit royalties for any drugs that make it to market. Celgene will hold global in-licensing rights to any such drugs
Neurodegenerative disorders are a hot therapeutic area, joining the ranks of inflammatory conditions and oncology as diseases with large patient populations and the potential for big returns on investment. A report released earlier this month from Global Business Intelligence, for example, found the neurodegenerative drug market will hit $45 billion by 2022.
Celgene has recently been positioning itself to become a player in that market, and the deal with Evotec is one of the most concrete steps the company has taken toward that goal.
The agreement also gives Celgene access to Evotec's technology platform, which relies on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Per the deal, Celgene can use the platform on its own suite of drugs called CELMoD.
The iPSCs are highly sought-after in neurodegenerative diseases since they can divide indefinitely and have the plasticity to be any kind of cell.
"We are very pleased to enter into our first neurodegeneration collaboration with Evotec and look forward to the screening of their compound libraries using their proprietary iPSC platform," Celgene's President of Research and Early Development Rupert Vessey said in a Dec. 15 statement from Evotec.
"Recent breakthroughs in our understanding of the mechanism of action of the CELMoD library may enable the discovery of other related compounds that can direct the degradation of proteins known to be neurotoxic," Vessey added. "Screening for this activity in highly controlled cell-based screens developed by Evotec represents an excellent initial approach for drug discovery in neurodegenerative disorders."