Celgene splashes out $300M on Delinia autoimmune biotech buy

As Johnson & Johnson announced its $30 billion for Actelion this morning, Celgene is also jumping on the M&A bandwagon with a $775 million biobucks deal for Delinia, which only had its Series A last September.

With $300 million upfront and $475 million in milestones down the line, Celgene gets itself a boost for its inflammation and immunology pipeline with the addition of Delinia’s lead program DEL106, a new IL-2 mutein Fc fusion protein designed to preferentially upregulate regulatory T cells.

It also gets its hands on “related second generation programs,” according to a statement from the pair. The med could be targeted against a variety of autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

On its website, the biotech says: “Early stage clinical trials in several diseases in which patients are infused with autologous Tregs have shown significant signs of efficacy. Several clinical trials in which patients have been treated with low-dose IL-2, a key Treg growth factor, have demonstrated augmentation of Treg levels and significant signs of efficacy.”

Just last fall it got off a $35 million Series A round led by Atlas Venture and Sofinnova.

“Delinia is at the forefront of advancing new approaches to treating patients with severe and debilitating autoimmune diseases,” said Rupert Vessey, president of research and early development for Celgene. “We look forward to progressing DEL106 into the clinic next year.”

“We are delighted to enter into this transaction with Celgene,” added Saurabh Saha, CEO at Delinia. “Their expanding Inflammation and Immunology franchise and strong commitment to scientific innovation makes them an ideal company to continue to move DEL106 forward.”

Dr. Saha is well known in the industry, being previously the CMO at Synlogic, and formerly the global head of the New Indications Discovery Unit at Novartis.

Delinia’s protein therapeutic platform is built on tech created by co-founder and CSO, Jeffrey Greve, and aims to try and better the safety profile of current autoimmune meds.

This platform specifically targets, activates and enhances the levels of Tregs, a cell type that exists in the body and controls the inflammatory response of other cells.

Its approach is to re-establish healthy immune regulation, rather than overwhelm the immune system--something that can result with marketed autoimmune meds.

French biotech TxCell is also working in this space, using T-cell treatments for chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (although it has had its share of manufacturing problems in the past year). 

This also comes just a few weeks after Anokion was put on a path to be snapped up by serial dealmaker Celgene as the Big Biotech paid $45 million up front, with an M&A clause built in for the Big Pharma-backed autoimmune disease specialist.

Jefferies said in a note to clients today that: "We believe the new approach [Tregs] could complement their expanding autoimmune portfolio."