Celgene affirms Juno CAR-T deal as key to long-term growth

Blue stem cells

Celgene highlighted a handful of immuno-oncology deals that are driving its long-term R&D prospects. Among them, it reaffirmed its commitment to CAR-T approaches from partners Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO) and bluebird bio ($BLUE), as well as noted immuno-oncology deals with Jounce Therapeutics and AstraZeneca ($AZN). 

Juno was hit earlier this month with an FDA trial hold after at least three deaths in its CAR-T trials for JCAR015, but the hold was quickly lifted as the agency agreed with the company’s assessment that it would be sufficient to alter the pretreatment regimen to exclude chemotherapy fludarabine.

In April, Celgene opted into a CD19 program partnership that includes JCAR015 as well as additional CD19-directed candidates JCAR017 and JCAR014. Under the deal, Celgene gained commercial rights outside of North America and China, with Juno retaining rights there.

Despite its rapid resolution, the recent Juno clinical trial hold at least raised the question of potential further difficulties in treatment combinations that include CAR-T candidates.

But Celgene was unfazed by the recent issue, specifically citing two CAR-T programs as key drivers of long-term growth: its CD19 program with Juno and its B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) program with bluebird bio.

“In April, we opened into the program with Juno and make good progress with their respective development programs for Europe,” noted Celgene President of Hematology & Oncology Michael Pehl on a July 28 earnings call.

As for bluebird, its CAR-T deal with Celgene dates back to 2013, but was specifically focused on candidates targeting BCMA last summer under a three-year updated deal.

Celgene also highlighted other immuno-oncology deals, including its brand-new one with Jounce Therapeutics and its AstraZeneca ($AZN) collaboration for an anti-PD-L1 inhibitor that dates back to last spring.

“Last week, we announced a new collaboration with Jounce Therapeutics adding to our differentiated opportunities to identify and develop novel immune therapies,” said Celgene CEO Mark Alles on the earnings call. "Our work with Jounce is expected to add to the progress we are making with our oncology partner AstraZeneca. And our expanded relationship will investigate potential new therapies based on immune cell metabolic pathways expected have applications for the treatment of cancers as well as inflammatory disorders.”

- here is the Celgene earnings release

Related Articles:
Celgene pays Juno $50M as it drives deeper into a $1B CAR-T collaboration
FDA clears Juno to resume CAR-T trial
Jounce nabs first big deal in $2.6B I/O tie-up with Celgene
Celgene opts in as bluebird starts first CAR-T clinical trial
Celgene pays $200M to start ambitious Agios immuno-oncology pact