Celgene turns to Concert for $300M deuterium-tweaking cancer collaboration

Concert Pharmaceuticals CEO Roger Tung has reeled in his third collaboration deal in a little more than a year, inking a $300 million pact with Celgene ($CELG) to tweak cancer and anti-inflammatory drugs with its deuterium-stabilizing technology. Initially, Concert says it will work on a single program with Celgene--which has one of the busiest partnering teams in biotechnology--with an opportunity to add new programs along the way and multiply the milestone potential in the partnership.

Details are sparse in Concert's release. There's no word of how much Celgene is paying upfront or what the initial target is. Just weeks ago Concert announced a $120 million pact with Jazz Pharmaceuticals ($JAZZ) on a new-and-improved version of the narcolepsy drug Xyrem. And a little more than a year ago, Avanir Pharmaceuticals ($AVNR) stepped up to work a $200 million deal on a modified version of its lead drug.

Concert's business plan relies on a series of these partnerships to help fund the company as it pursues a mid-stage program for its own in-house program, CTP-499 for diabetic kidney disease. And it's banking on a simple scientific concept: proposing to stabilize drugs with deuterium in such a way as to redefine compounds, making them less threatening on the side-effect front and more promising in terms of efficacy.

Its rep in deuterium modification has grown steadily. The Celgene deal marks its biggest dollar target with a high-profile partner.

"Celgene's deep experience developing clinically meaningful therapies, and their global commitment to patients across multiple therapeutic areas, make them an ideal partner," said Tung in a statement. "We look forward to working with Celgene to evaluate the potential benefits of deuterium-modification for a number of programs emerging in our pipeline."

- here's the press release