- Private biotech Nimbus Therapeutics has inked a long-term strategic alliance with Celgene in immunology for two pre-clinical assets, setting Celgene up to compete with Bristol-Myers Squibb & Co. in the space.
- The deal, based around Nimbus' Tyk2 (tyrosine kinase 2) and STING (stimulator of interferon genes) antagonist programs, gives Celgene the opportunity for first dibs to acquire the programs up to a specific but undisclosed clinical inflection point.
- Nimbus will get an upfront payment and potential downstream milestone payments for each program Celgene chooses to acquire. The financial details won't be disclosed until Celgene opts into the programs.
"Celgene is committed to the continued growth of our expanding immunology and inflammation pipeline, and believes that the Nimbus immunology programs, including their efforts on Tyk2 and STING antagonists, represent important additions as we work to create the next generation of drug candidates for patients with autoimmune disorders," said Rupert Vessey, EVP and president of global research and early development at Celgene.
The tie-up is the culmination of over a year of talks, said Altas Ventures partner Bruce Booth. The Nimbus backer said the deal was dubbed "Project Everest," due to the location of Celgene's headquarters in Summit, NJ.
Celgene is the most recent in a line of companies snapping up Nimbus Therapeutics' deep computational expertise in drug discovery and development. In October 2015, Roche's Genentech shook hands on a computational chemistry deal for small molecule inhibitors of interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase 4 (IRAK4), in return for undisclosed upfront, milestone and royalty payments to the smaller company.
Gilead acquired Nimbus' nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) acetyl-coA carboxylase (ACC) program, including the lead drug, NDI-010976, in April 2016, in a deal worth up to $1.2 billion, and got its first milestone payment of $200 million in November 2016. NDI-010976 is the first prospectively in silico-designed molecule to reach human clinical testing, according to the company. More recently, in April 2017, Charles River Laboratories International signed a multi-year strategic partnership to take molecules from discovery to investigational new drug submission in immunology, metabolic disorders and oncology.
While the details of this deal are still under wraps, Celgene has been shelling out money for partnerships this year. In August, it stumped up $195 million for a partnership with existing partner Forma Therapeutics, and has the option to pay up to an aggregate $375 million to set up another partnership with the private biotech, potentially culminating with an outright acquisition. And in July, Celgene paid $263 million upfront plus a $150 million equity investment for BeiGene's PD-1 inhibitor BGB-A317 in solid tumors.