NEW YORK & ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Biopharmaceutical company Lycera Corp., which specializes in the development of breakthrough immune modulatory medicines, has struck an exclusive global collaboration with Celgene Corporation to advance its proprietary pipeline of drug candidates for cancer and immune-mediated diseases.
“Lycera is making rapid progress in advancing novel oral immune modulatory compounds, for the treatment of cancer and immune disease, which are highly complementary to Celgene’s platform,” said Tom Daniel, president of Research & Early Development at Celgene, noted in a statement. “The collaboration will allow further acceleration of these efforts, with the ultimate goal of realizing a substantial impact on patient care.”
Per the agreement, Celgene will pay Lycera $82.5 million up front in cash, a payment that includes an exclusive option for Celgene to license Lycera's portfolio of ex-vivo RORgamma-agonist compounds. Lycera also stands to receive near-term payments of an additional $22.5 million associated with those ex-vivo licensing option rights. In addition, the agreement grants Celgene the exclusive right to acquire Lycera upon conclusion of the option period or achievement by Lycera of pre-specified clinical milestones. During the option period, Lycera will keep full control of its research and development programs, and should Celgene exercise its option to acquire Lycera, shareholders will also be eligible to receive future success-based milestone payments.
“We are very excited to begin a partnership with Lycera, a company that has created two programs based on great, potentially breakthrough science,” added George Golumbeski, senior vice president of Business Development & Licensing at Celgene. “The collaboration structure utilized here allows us to work very closely with Lycera to expand and progress their programs, and the structure aligns all involved in the work toward a future M&A event. I very much look forward to seeing these exciting programs mature.”
Lycera's pipeline includes a number of selective and potent oral agonists that target RORgamma, a master control switch of immune system activation, for the treatment of a variety of cancer types. Ex-vivo treatment with RORgamma agonist compounds has demonstrated the ability to enhance the therapeutic benefit of adoptive T cell therapy by improving immune cell persistence as well as activation. As noted on Lycera's website, “The retinoic acid-related orphan receptor γt (RORγt) is a nuclear receptor transcription factor that acts as a immune cell master control switch driving the function of Th17 (helper T-cells) and Tc17 (cytotoxic) T cells. Lycera’s RORγ agonists modulate gene expression to reprogram immune cells for improved function, as well as decrease immunosuppressive mechanisms, resulting in decreased tumor growth and enhanced survival in in-vivo preclinical models of cancer.”
This collaboration will focus on, among others, LYC-30937, Lycera's lead program. The compound is an oral gut-directed ATPase modulator in Phase 1 clinical studies for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, specifically with the hope of providing significant disease improvement without global immune suppression. Lycera's pipeline also includes a RORgamma agonist being advanced in immuno-oncology, a Rho Kinase inhibitor for autoimmune disease/fibrosis and a histone deacetylase 6 inhibitor being advanced as an immune modulator.
“We are excited to be working with Celgene, as we share a commitment to develop disruptive scientific approaches that can translate into disease-altering medicines for patients,” Paul Sekhri, president and CEO of Lycera, said in a press release. “Celgene made clear that they valued both our world-class team and scientific excellence. This investment and strategic collaboration will allow our company to continue to capitalize on the productive research and development pipeline we have established.”