Celgene licenses immuno-oncology pipeline in $80m deal

By Maggie Lynch

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Christoph Bergstedt)
(Image: Getty/Christoph Bergstedt)

Related tags Immuno-oncology Immune response Oncology Celgene Collaboration immune cell

Celgene and Kyn Therapeutics enter a licensing agreement to develop Kyn’s immuno-oncology pipeline for investigative therapies after Celgene was acquired by BMS.

At the beginning of this month, Bristol Meyers Squibb (BMS) entered a $74bn (€65) deal to acquire​ Celgene. The contract between BMS and Celgene was in an aim for BMS to bolster its immuno-oncology and immunology/inflammation franchises.

After the notice of the deal, Celgene has continued to strengthen its oncology pipeline through this licensing agreement with Kyn Therapeutics.

The arrangement between Kyn Therapeutics and Celgene will progress immuno-oncology therapies by leveraging Kyn’s immuno-oncology pipeline with Celgene’s development and commercialization capabilities.

Bolstering oncology

Under the terms of the agreement, Celgene will provide an upfront payment and investment to receive global license to option Kyn’s aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) antagonist program and its kynurenine-degrading enzyme, known as its Kynase program.

Celgene’s upfront payment to Kyn will be a cash payment of $80m and the company will invest in Kyn.

A spokesperson for Kyn told us, “The programs covered by the partnership are, Kyn believes, truly differentiated and supported by compelling preclinical data that indicates the potential to modulate immunosuppression across a range of tumor types and via multiple immune cell effects.”

AHR and kynurenine are associated with immunosuppression in a range of tumor types through multiple cellular metabolic mechanisms that modulate both innate and adaptive immunity. Because of this, both of these programs work well as targets for investigative therapies.

The company’s AHR antagonist program has become a target in inflammation, auto-immune, and cancer therapies. Its Kynase program can potentially inhibit the Kynurenine pathway in a way that IDO selective inhibition​ is not able to, according to Kyn.

Both of these programs have the ability to provide treatments that may be resistant or as supplemental therapies.

“There is a strong appetite for targets that may have utility to amplify the effects of currently approved immunotherapies and improve response rates and clinical outcomes, in particular in the resistance setting,”​ the spokesperson explained.

Kyn will be responsible for research and development activities through Phase Ib. After that phase, Celgene can opt in to lead and fund global development and commercialization of the licensed programs.

Successful completion of this project will make Kyn eligible for clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments. Kyn will also receive tiered royalties on net sales on products that result from the development of its licensed programs.

Obsidian collaboration

To continue the work of Celgene’s oncology efforts, Obsidian Therapeutics and Celgene entered a strategic collaboration for the discovery and development of regulated cell therapies that use Obsidian’s destabilizing domain technology. This partnership came shortly after the acquisition of Celgene by BMS as well.

Through the collaboration, the technology will be used for the controlled expression of two immunomodulatory factors.

Per the agreement, Celgene has the exclusive option to in-license worldwide rights for cell therapy candidates for the treatment of cancer. It includes an upfront payment and equity investment by Celgene. 

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