Cephalon scoops up cancer drugs in $525M Gemin X buyout

Intrigued by a lead program aimed at retriggering cell death in order to fight cancer, Cephalon ($CEPH) has gobbled up the small biotech Gemin X with a $225 million down payment and up to $300 million in promised milestones. The deal represents the latest in a string of biotech buyouts as international pharma companies as well as mid-sized developers join the hunt for new acquisitions at a time biotech IPOs are getting a cold shoulder from investors.

In return for its cash, Cephalon gets obatoclax, or GX15-070, which has wrapped a Phase IIb trial in 160 small cell lung cancer patients with data ready to be presented at an upcoming scientific meeting. Researchers have been probing for proof that obatoclax can go on to become a first-line cancer therapy. The McGill University spinoff also has a mid-stage program underway for teglarinad (GMX1777) as well as a preclinical program in place.

While Gemin X has kept the data from the Phase IIb trial under wraps for now, both CEO Peter R. Dolan and CMO Jean Viallet tell FierceBiotech this morning that given Cephalon's deal, there's a clear inference that "it was a successful trial." Gemin X will proceed as a wholly-owned subsidiary, adding its late-stage work to Cephalon, which has been working on some of the same cancer targets and now has an option on potential combo therapies in its portfolio.

"We're delighted the asset will continue to be developed," says Dolan, adding that obatoclax offers a clear opportunity for small cell lung cancer patients who haven't seen a significant advance on the therapeutic front for the past 25 years.

- read the Cephalon release