Celgene jumps into blood-cancer race with J&J, adding $818M MorphoSys deal

Celgene has decisively stepped in to partner on an early-stage myeloma and leukemia drug in MorphoSys's pipeline, paying $92 million upfront, a $60 million premium for a stake in the company and offering to cover a substantial portion of the R&D budget for the antibody targeting the CD38 molecule. The total package including milestones: $818 million, rivaling what Big Pharma companies would pay for a high-profile experimental drug program.

In the deal, Celgene gets worldwide rights to MOR202, while MorphoSys keeps co-promotion rights in Europe. The drug is currently in a Phase I/IIa trial in patients with relapsed or refractory myeloma. MorphoSys and Celgene will collaborate on the development of MOR202 in multiple myeloma and other indications and share costs on a 1/3:2/3 basis.

A little less than a year ago, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) paid Genmab $55 million upfront--with an $88 million equity stake--to license its CD38 program, daratumumab, in a deal worth up to $1.1 billion. Just weeks ago the Phase I/II drug earned breakthrough drug status, which is likely to put some pressure on Celgene to do the same. Like MOR202, daratumumab targets the CD38 molecule found on multiple myeloma cells, proving promising in preclinical work for a range of hematological cells.

 "This alliance takes MorphoSys to the next stage of our corporate development," says Dr. Simon Moroney, the CEO of MorphoSys AG. "By moving up the value chain we have the opportunity to develop a commercial organization that expands on our significant research, development and technology expertise of today. Targeting CD38 has matured to be a highly innovative and very promising approach in multiple myeloma and we are committed to retain a larger share of the potential upside. Celgene, one of the leading innovators in multiple myeloma, is the ideal partner to develop the compound efficiently and deliver to patients with multiple myeloma worldwide."

- here's the press release

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