Biotechnology giants Celgene and Juno join forces under 10-year plan

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Celgene Corporation and Juno Therapeutics, Inc. have recently announced plans to collaborate over a decade to drive their immunotherapies into the global arena.

Using combined resources, the companies plan to quickly and efficiently develop commercial products based on T cell strategies to serve patients with cancer and autoimmune diseases. Their focus will be on chimeric antigen receptor technology (CAR-T) and T cell receptor (TCR) technologies.
“This transaction strengthens Celgene’s position in the emerging and transformative area of immuno-oncology,” commented Bob Hugin, Chairman and CEO of integrated global biopharmaceutical company, Celgene. “Juno has assembled world class experts and built impressive capabilities and technologies in the areas of T cell biology and cellular therapy; we believe this long-term collaboration enhances the potential of both companies to deliver transformational therapies to patients with significant unmet medical needs.”

The team on the other side sound just as hopeful about the new partnership. Hans Bishop, CEO of Juno said: “Celgene is the ideal partner for Juno to help us realize the full potential of our science and clinical research while maintaining the independence we, our employees, partners, and investors believe is so critical for true innovation. This unique collaboration is designed to catalyze and create tremendous ongoing scientific and product development synergy by leveraging each company’s strengths and assets. In addition to its established global presence and commercial reach, Celgene has leading small molecule and protein capabilities that complement Juno’s advanced engineered T cell capabilities. By doing this together, we believe we can more quickly and effectively develop potentially disruptive therapies in this new field of medicine and make them more readily available to patients worldwide.”

The news comes weeks after Celgene narrowed its exclusive deal with bluebird bio regarding its CAR-T prospects. Under the terms of the agreement, Celgene has the option to commercialize Juno’s oncology and cell therapy autoimmune product candidates outside North America and co-promote certain programs globally. This includes Juno’s CD19- and CD22-directed CAR-T product candidates; however, B-cell maturation antigen is an excluded target under the terms of this collaboration. Similarly, Juno gains the option of co-developing and co-promoting select Celgene programs. It is Celgene who have agreed to make an initial payment of approximately $1 billion – in return they will gain around 9.1 million shares of Juno stock at $93.00 per share initially, although Celgene have the potential to increase this stake over time. Celgene will also have the right to elect a member to Juno’s board of directors.

For Juno-orientated programs co-developed during the collaboration, Juno will be responsible for research and development and will keep commercialization right in those regions. Celgene will be responsible for development and commercialization in the rest of the world, but will pay Juno royalties on sales.

The specifics of the transaction have been approved by the boards of directors of the two companies and the final completion of the agreement is expected during the third quarter of 2015.

Steve Brozak has written a perspective piece in Forbes entitled ‘Did Celgene’s Billion Dollar Deal With Juno Just Save The Biotech Bull Market?’ Brozak refers to economic uncertainty in Greece and China’s market deterioration as potential reasons for a pullback in the biotech market, which he believes this collaboration may just have prevented. The author suggests that Juno shareholders should perceive this as ‘a truly meaningful, if not transformative, deal.’ Indeed, the company itself is now arguably free to operate and do what it does best on the back of Celgene’s financial backing.

Sources: Celgene and Juno Announce Ten-Year Collaboration to Advance Potentially Groundbreaking Immunotherapies for Patients with Cancer and Autoimmune Diseases; http://ir.celgene.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=919929; http://www.forbes.com/sites/stephenbrozak/2015/06/30/did-celgenes-billion-dollar-deal-with-juno-just-save-the-biotech-bull-market/