Celgene, Evotec AG Ink $295 Million Drug Discovery Pact

Celgene, Evotec AG Ink $295 Million Drug Discovery Pact December 16, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

HAMBURG, Germany – New Jersey-based Celgene inked a five-year neurodegeneration drug discovery and development deal with Germany’s Evotec AG that could be worth up to $295 million.

Celgene, which has cheekily been dubbed “pharma’s best friend” for its string of collaborative deals, will pay Evotec an initial $45 million to develop that company’s induced pluripotent stem cell platform. The platform enables systematic drug screening in a broad range of patient-derived disease models.

Under terms of the deal, Celgene will have the option to hold the world-wide rights to Evotec programs developed from the compound laboratory. As part of the collaboration, Celgene may also elect to screen compounds from its proprietary CELMoD(R) library using Evotec's iPSC platform to evaluate activity in models of neurodegenerative diseases, Evotec said. In addition to the initial $45 million payment, Evotec will be eligible to receive up to $250 million in milestone payments and royalties on any licensed programs.

While the specifics of what neurodegenerative diseases will be targeted were not identified, the field has had a history of failures, particularly when it comes to developing therapies for Alzheimer’s. However, Alzheimer’s research, which has been disappointing to say the least, received a shot in the arm after Biogen reported positive results from its aducanumab trial targeting Amyloid plaque.

Delving into neurodegenerative research is something that has been a goal of Bob Hugin, Celgene’s executive chairman. Endpoints’ John Carroll wrote this morning that several years ago, Hugin told a group of reporters at the J.P. Morgan conference that “any company that intended to have a big impact on health in 10 years would have to be involved in developing new drugs for neurodegeneration.” It appears that Celgene is now making that move, even as Hugin looks to retire in a few weeks.

Like Celgene, Evotec is no stranger to collaborative deals. Earlier this month, the company formed an alliance with San Diego-based Forge Therapeutics to develop antibiotics for “superbugs." At the end of November, Evotec struck a deal with Merck to leverage target discovery technologies . Also in November, Evotec entered into a deal to provide screening services for Massachusetts-based MilliporeSigma’s collection of genetic reagents such as CRISPR and shRNA libraries.

Additionally, Evotec has established multiple long-term discovery alliances with partners including Bayer , CHDI, Sanofi or UCB and development partnerships with e.g. Janssen Pharmaceuticals in the field of Alzheimer's disease, with in the field of diabetes and with Pfizer in the field of tissue fibrosis.

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