Celgene ($CELG) has agreed to help fund a study of its blockbuster blood-cancer drug Revlimid in HIV patients. Bionor Pharma, a Norweigian biotech focused on HIV, revealed plans on Monday to test a cocktail consisting of its experimental HIV treatment and Revlimid in Germany.
German authorities OK'd the trial for testing Bionor's Vacc-4x candidate in combination with Celgene's multibillion-dollar seller. Bionor said some of the HIV patients in the study will include those whose CD4 T cell counts remain low despite treatment with standard antiviral therapies. The trial aims to show whether Bionor's candidate can increase levels of the helper T cells in patients with viral loads under control after standard therapy, and whether Revlimid enhances the effects of Bionor's Vacc-4x.
Celgene, which has approval of Revlimid around the world for blood cancers and anemia, has forged a string of alliances and buyout deals to build on the success of its marquee product. In the Bionor-sponsored study in Germany, the cost of which Bionor and Celgene will share, researchers will get to compare immune cell counts and qualities in patients on Bionor's drug alone and those on the Vacc-4x and Revlimid combo. The study takes places at four centers in Germany, and it could shed light on whether Revlimid and Bionor's drug have a future together in the large HIV market.
"We look forward to determining whether Revlimid (lenalidomide) may enhance Vacc-4x's activity in this immune compromised population," said Dr. Jerome Zeldis, CEO of Celgene Global Health and the company's chief medical officer, in a statement. Zeldis serves on the board of Bionor Pharma.
As Bloomberg reported, Bionor has in the past sent mixed signals about the viability of Vacc-4x as an HIV treatment. The company took a major hit to its stock price after saying in October 2010 that the drug lacked efficacy, only to come back to investors the following month with updated analysis showing that the drug may have lowered levels of the virus.
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