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Aug 05, 2013
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Future-proofing MM

Celgene's Acetylon option enables epigenetic combinations in multiple myeloma

Celgene Corp.'s deal with Acetylon Pharmaceuticals Inc. hinges on the expectation that epigenetic therapy combinations will become mainstays of multiple myeloma treatment and gives Celgene first crack at ACY-1215 - the most advanced HDAC6 inhibitor in development.

Regardless of whether the deal progresses to an acquisition, Acetylon is getting enough money to bring the molecule deep into Phase II trials.

Acetylon received $100 million up front to fund development of ACY-1215, which is in Phase Ib testing for multiple myeloma (MM), along with a trio of preclinical programs. If Celgene exercises an exclusive option to buy the company during an undisclosed period, Acetylon shareholders would receive at least $500 million and up to $250 million in regulatory and $850 million in sales milestones. The deal could total $1.7 billion.

Acetylon will conduct a Phase II program for ACY-1215 in MM that may include combination trials with Celgene's immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs) Revlimid lenalidomide and Pomalyst pomalidomide.

Preclinical programs in the collaboration are the histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6) inhibitor ACY-738 for neurodegeneration, an unidentified HDAC1 and HDAC2 inhibitor for sickle cell disease and thalassemia, and an undisclosed program spanning cancer and non-cancer indications.

"These collaborations with earlier-stage companies are kind of where our sweet spot is for developing, furthering and complementing our internal research capability," said Celgene spokesperson Greg Geissman.

In February 2012, Celgene made a $15 million equity investment in Acetylon, which gave Celgene a non-voting observer on the smaller biotech's board, but not rights or options to its technology.

Celgene will maintain its observer rights, and a governance committee will oversee the programs covered under the new deal. Acetylon will retain control of the programs during the option period.

"This particular arrangement appeared to provide the best combination of providing Celgene with value across the spectrum of programs that they're interested in, but also providing our shareholders with...

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