Celgene's R&D speed dating is starting to pay off, CEO says

Celgene CEO Bob Hugin

Commit up to $485 million to buy a cancer genomics company. Pay another $450 million for a share of an immuno-oncology candidate. Throw in a $30 million licensing deal and an $80 million bet on a longtime collaborator and you've got a month in the life of Celgene ($CELG), biotech's most prolific dealmaker.

And while casting so many irons in so many fires might stretch some companies too thin, Celgene CEO Bob Hugin says his Big Biotech has the expertise and corporate culture necessary to keep all those plates spinning. The company signed 10 licensing deals last year, according to Bloomberg, more than any other biotech, and Hugin said Celgene's prolificacy is beginning to bear fruit.

"We think the strategy is working very well," Hugin told Bloomberg. "There's great productivity coming out of the partnerships."

To his point, Celgene's longstanding relationship with the venture-backed Acceleron Pharma has yielded two treatments for myelodysplastic syndromes soon to enter Phase III development, and two cancer therapies licensed from Agios Pharmaceuticals ($AGIO) and Epizyme ($EPZM) are progressing into mid-stage development. And then there are scores of discovery-stage and preclinical assets in development with Celgene's many other partners, focused on the biotech's home turf of hematology but also anemias, inflammation and solid tumors.

Hugin, alongside dealmaking chief George Golumbeski, believes Celgene's many shots on goal are sure to produce a few major hits. The company has a trio of cancer blockbusters in Revlimid, Abraxane and Pomalyst, and Celgene, whose pipeline has been jokingly compared to an oncology index all its own, takes such a sweeping approach to partnering in hopes of finding the next big thing in biotech, no matter who invented it.

- read the interview