Celgene will collaborate with Astrazeneca to develop PD-L1 inhibitor program for patients with blood cancers

Program to focus initially on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndromes and multiple myeloma with studies scheduled to start in second-half 2015

Lloyd Dunlap
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BOUDRY, Switzerland—Celgene International II Sàrl, a wholly owned subsidiary of Celgene Corporation, has entered into a strategic collaboration with MedImmune Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of AstraZeneca PLC, to develop and commercialize an anti-PD-L1 inhibitor, MEDI4736, for hematologic malignancies. Approximately 1.75 million patients globally suffer from blood cancer and many are in need of new treatment options.
MEDI4736 is a human monoclonal antibody directed against programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1), which helps tumors avoid detection by the immune system. Tumor cells use PD-L1 to turn off the immune system just as it begins to mount a response against them. MEDI4736 helps turn the immune system back on, allowing it to continue its attack on cancer.
The immune system depends on multiple checkpoints or “immunological brakes” to avoid overactivation of the immune system on healthy cells. Tumor cells often take advantage of these checkpoints to escape detection by the immune system. PD-1 is an immunologic checkpoint that has been found to be upregulated in certain tumors; it inhibits T cell function contributing to the tumor’s ability to evade the immune system. Inhibiting a checkpoint (i.e., “releasing the brakes”) on the immune system may enhance the anti-tumor T cell response.
“The potential of rationally combining immunotherapies such as MEDI4736 with existing and novel hematology compounds creates new opportunities for patients with blood cancers to live longer, better lives,” said Jacqualyn A. Fouse, Ph.D., president, global hematology and oncology for Celgene. “This strategic collaboration leverages the deep expertise of AstraZeneca/MedImmune in immuno-oncology along with the experience of Celgene in the study and treatment of blood cancers. This collaboration advances Celgene’s already deep, diverse scientific platform to include checkpoint inhibitors, an area of significant promise in hematology.”
Dr. Bahija Jallal, executive vice president at MedImmune, said: “We are excited about our strategic collaboration with Celgene, a globally recognized leader in treatments for hematological cancers. This agreement is a great example of how we are accelerating the development of medical innovation in our portfolio in collaboration with other experts, in order to bring life-enhancing new medicines to patients faster. Together with Celgene, we are designing a program for our anti-PD-L1 that will explore its full clinical potential as a game-changing treatment that could activate the patients’ immune system to fight and change the course of blood cancers in this area of high unmet need.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Celgene will collaborate with AstraZeneca to develop the anti-PD-L1 antibody MEDI4736 in hematology and make an upfront payment of $450 million. Celgene will lead clinical development across all new clinical trials within the collaboration and be responsible for all costs associated with these trials until December 31, 2016, after which it is responsible for 75 percent of these costs. Celgene will also be responsible for the global commercialization of approved MEDI4736 indications in hematology, and will receive royalty rates starting at 70 percent of worldwide sales from all uses in hematology. Royalty rates will decrease gradually to 50 percent over a period of four years after the first date of commercial sales. This collaboration agreement will become effective upon the expiration or termination of the applicable waiting periods under all applicable antitrust laws.
This strategic collaboration will initially focus on the development of MEDI4736 as combination therapy with Celgene’s pipeline of products and other novel agents for hematologic disorders. Over time, the collaboration could expand to include other assets.
MEDI4736 is a human monoclonal antibody directed against programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1), which helps tumors avoid detection by the immune system. MEDI4736 is currently being evaluated in several disease states, including lung, melanoma and head and neck cancer.
The World Health Organization estimates that 1.75 million patients had a hematologic malignancy in 2012. These diseases include lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes. The global incidence of blood cancers continues to rise. By 2030, the incidence of blood cancer overall is predicted to rise by 46 percent, and that of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma by 50 and 60 percent, respectively.
Celgene Corporation, headquartered in Summit, New Jersey, is an integrated global biopharmaceutical company engaged primarily in the discovery, development and commercialization of innovative therapies for the treatment of cancer and inflammatory diseases through gene and protein regulation.

Lloyd Dunlap

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