Making monoclonal antibodies for multiple myeloma

Germany’s MorphoSys, Celgene sign pact to develop novel therapeutic antibody for patients with blood cell cancer

Lori Lesko
MUNICH, Germany—Aimed at developing a novel therapeuticantibody to treat multiple myeloma—a painful and often fatal blood cell cancerdisease—German biotech MorphoSys and global biopharmaceutical Celgene Corp.,headquartered in Summit, N.J., have signed a pact to jointly develop MOR202worldwide and co-promote the antibody in Europe.
 
 
Under the terms of the agreement, MorphoSys will receive anupfront license fee of $92 million, while Celgene plans to invest $60 millionto subscribe for new shares of MorphoSys, the company stated. The new shareswill be issued at a price to be determined upon the transaction becomingeffective following clearance by the antitrust authorities under theHart-Scott-Rodino Act.
 
 
MOR202 is a fully human monoclonal antibody targeting CD38,designed to treat patients with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that beginsin plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies) and certainleukemias. CD38 is a protein found on the surface of these tumor cells thatacts as a target for the MOR202 antibody. Once attached, the MOR202 attractsnatural killer cells in the body to identify and kill the tumor cells.
MOR202 is currently being evaluated in a Phase I/IIa trialin patients with relapsed/refractory myeloma. MorphoSys and Celgene willcollaborate on the development of MOR202 in multiple myeloma and otherindications, and share costs.
 
"This alliance takes MorphoSys to the next stage of ourcorporate development," MorphoSys CEO Simon Moroney stated in a news release."By moving up the value chain, we have the opportunity to develop a commercialorganization that expands on our significant research, development andtechnology expertise of today."
 
Targeting CD38 "has matured to be a highly innovative andvery promising approach in multiple myeloma, and we are committed to retain a largershare of the potential upside," Moroney stated. "Celgene, one of the leadinginnovators in multiple myeloma, is the ideal partner to develop the compoundefficiently and deliver to patients with multiple myeloma, worldwide."
 
 
Mark Alles, executive vice president and global head ofhematology and oncology at Celgene, states, "Strategic investments innext-generation medical innovation make it possible for physicians to turnincurable cancers like multiple myeloma into chronic, more manageable diseases.The collaboration with MorphoSys enables us to rapidly advance a promisingtherapeutic antibody in a disease where significant progress is being made, butwhere patients continue to need new treatment options."
 
 
"The agreement with Celgene is one of the most importantdeals in MorphoSys' history, as it allows MorphoSys to mature into acommercial-stage biopharmaceutical company," Claudia Gutjahr-Loser, head ofcorporate communications at MorphoSys, tells DDNEWS. "MorphoSys also can participate to a higher degreein the future value of MOR202, and develop the compound with one of the leadersin the multiple myeloma market."
 
 
Celgene is one of the leading players in the field ofmultiple myeloma and views MOR202 as a high-priority asset, she adds.
 
 
"We believe co-development with Celgene will be efficientand fast," Gutjahr-Loser says. "In addition, Celgene has a broadly establishednetwork in the multiple myeloma community, which not only allows a fasterdevelopment, but likely also a broader and better understanding of patients'and physicians' needs in the field. This could lead to the optimal distributionof MOR202 to patients to help further improve the current treatment in multiplemyeloma."
 
 
However, the number of new cases of multiple myeloma aroundthe world has been on the rise. Multiple myeloma strikes most of its victimsbetween the ages of 40 and 60. Of the estimated new cases and deaths frommultiple myeloma in the United States in 2013, the U.S. National Institutes ofHealth reports 22,350 new cases and 10,710 deaths. Datamonitor predicts thatbetween 2012 and 2030, incidents of multiple myeloma cases will increase by 47percent in the United States, Japan and the major EU markets of France,Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
 
 
"Since incidents of most cancers increases with age, thesame is true for multiple myeloma. Hence, in recent years, multiple myelomaincidence rates have been slowly but steadily increasing," Gutjahr-Loser says.

Lori Lesko

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