Celgene touts pipeline, stem cell drug at R&D day

At its R&D day yesterday, Celgene said that it expects to see $6 billion in revenue by 2015 from its three big blood cancer drugs Revlimid, Thalomid and Vidaza. But beyond its marketed products, the big biotech says it has a pipeline of new drugs that will help it grow in new diseases and new markets.

Celgene is taking aim at drugs for inflammatory diseases and therapies that regulate the body's immune system. One of its biggest hopes is apremilast, a potential treatment for psoriasis and for psoriatic arthritis. The treatment has proven effective in clinical trials and causes fewer side effects than Amgen's blockbuster Enbrel, which is also used to treat a range of immunological diseases. Late stage trials of apremilast will begin later this year. If approved, Celgene predicts that the drug could reach annual sales of $2 billion to $3 billion.

Other pipeline candidates include Phase III lung cancer drug amrubicin and ACE-011 for chemotherapy-induced anemia. And yesterday the biotech revealed results from a small study of PDA-001, a stem cell treatment for Crohn's disease. Four patients in the 12 person trial experienced clinical remission of the disease, and study met its primary safety goal. The company now plans multiple Phase II studies of the drug in a number of diseases. "We will continue to aggressively pursue the clinical development of this and other cellular therapies derived from what we see as one of the richest sources of uniquely functional and versatile cells," says Robert Hariri, head of Celgene's Cellular Therapeutics unit.

Part of Celgene's goal during its R&D day was to convince analysts that the company is more than a one-trick pony. Revlimid--Celgene's top-selling multiple myeloma drug--and its predecessor drug Thalomid accounted for almost 80 percent of the biotech's sales last year. While there are promising drugs in the pipeline, some analysts remain skeptical that Celgene can reduce its dependence on Revlimid in the near future. "We still have Revlimid accounting for two-thirds of the company's revenue by 2018," Morningstar analyst Karen Andersen tells Reuters.

- read the Reuters report on the R&D day
- and here's more on the stem cell trial