Billionaire Soon-Shiong ties a $75M knot with Celgene, vows R&D revolution

Patrick Soon-Shiong

Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong is back to doing cancer drug deals. And he's working with some very familiar partners at Celgene to build up a new platform for nanoparticle albumin-bound (NAB) drugs--building on the same tumor-targeting tech used for Abraxane.

Celgene, which bought Abraxane from Soon-Shiong in the $3 billion Abraxis acquisition, is licensing two IND-enabled NAB drugs to NantBioScience, an LA-based subsidiary of the billionaire's new company NantWorks. Celgene ($CELG) is also paying out $75 million as part option fee and part equity investment in the company, with plans to rope back in the most promising therapies to come out of the company.

The billionaire's ultimate vision is to integrate cloud computing, genomic analysis and targeted drug development to manage an individual's cancer as a chronic but controllable disease. That's a big goal, and he's tackling p53--one of the toughest targets in cancer--in one of the first big steps in the long journey to that destination.

Soon-Shiong built a fortune in biotech, and he says he's invested more than $100 million of that in his new initiative, promising nothing less than a revolution in cancer drug development and vowing that advanced sequencing tech has made it possible to develop therapies which are precisely tailed to the molecular profile of a patient's tumor.

"We intend to make obsolete the standard method of clinical trial design of 'trial and error' and replace it with a level of quantitative predictability based on both the genomic and proteomic profile performed a priori. We also intend to make obsolete the common understanding that cancer treatments, developed under the age old dogma of 'maximum tolerated dose,' may work but only by wreaking terrible side effects, bringing patients to the brink of death," said Soon-Shiong in a statement. "Celgene has been a strong steward for Abraxane which is now approved for metastatic breast, lung and pancreatic cancer. This new partnership will enable us to aggressively advance our drug pipeline and put us one step closer to developing--and then delivering--molecular designed cancer treatments for patients to receive the right care at the right time."

The first product candidate in the deal is NTB-011, a NAB formulation of a "colchicine dimer with cytotoxic and vascular disrupting properties." The second product candidate, NTB-010, is a NAB formulation of the "geldanomycin analogue, 17-AAG, a potent HSP90 inhibitor, which is planned to be studied in patients with a variety of hematological and solid tumors." Phase I clinical trials will begin this year and in 2015.

- here's the press release

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