Working in Concert

Concert, Celgene to develop compounds for cancer, inflammation

Kelsey Kaustinen
LEXINGTON, Mass.—Concert Pharmaceuticals Inc. and CelgeneCorp. have formed a strategic collaboration focused on deuterium-modifiedcompounds targeting cancer and inflammation. The collaboration will be focusedon a single program initially, but has the potential to expand to includeseveral targets.
 
 
"Celgene's deep experience developing clinically meaningfultherapies, and their global commitment to patients across multiple therapeuticareas, make them an ideal partner," Dr. Roger Tung, president and CEO ofConcert, commented in a press release. "We look forward to working with Celgeneto evaluate the potential benefits of deuterium modification for a number ofprograms emerging in our pipeline."
 
 
Per the terms of the agreement, Celgene will make an upfrontpayment to Concert of an undisclosed amount. Should Celgene decide to exerciseits program options, Concert will be eligible for more than $300 million indevelopment, regulatory and sales milestone payments for each program thatCelgene selects for development. Concert is also entitled to tiered royaltieson product sales for each program advanced by Celgene.
 
 
Celgene, which focuses on the discovery, development andcommercialization of novel therapies for cancer and inflammatory diseases, hasa broad product pipeline in both areas. In oncology, the company is advancingcompounds for the treatment of cancers such as bladder, ovarian, pancreatic,melanoma, breast and non-small cell lung cancer. In the realm of inflammationand immunology, Celgene is advancing therapies for conditions such asrheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis andautoimmune diseases.
 
 
Concert specializes in the creation of medicines through itsproprietary deuterated chemical entity (DCE) platform, which is centered on theuse of deuterium, a safe and naturally occurring element. As Concert notes onits website, "in select cases, deuterium can improve upon the metabolicproperties of a drug with little or no change in its intrinsic pharmacology."The company's approach to drug discovery "begins with compounds that have beenpreviously characterized," which may have good pharmacological properties but aless-than-ideal absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion profile. Bymodifying the compounds with deuterium, "we can significantly modulate the formationof different metabolites, either or up or down regulating metabolites," saysTung.
 
Some of Concert's leading product candidates, developedthrough its DCE platform, include CTP-499, a potentially first-in-classtreatment for diabetic kidney disease that is currently in Phase II testing,and CTP-354, a non-sedating subtype-selective GABA(A) modulator being developedas a potential treatment for spasticity, neuropathic pain and anxiety.
 
 
Tung feels that Concert's DCE program offers a great deal offlexibility in terms of the therapeutic areas in which deuterium can have apositive effect on drug composition.
"We are therapeutically agnostic in terms of the kind ofindications that we can use the technology for," he says. "We certainly seethat the effects are predicated on the metabolism of compounds, the route ofclearance of the compound and the effects of metabolites of any particularcompound."
 
 
The agreement is one of several for Concert in the pastyear. The company announced a license agreement with Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLCin February centered on Concert's deuterium-modified sodium oxybate compounds,including C-10323, Concert's preclinical drug candidate for the treatment ofnarcolepsy. In February 2012, Concert announced a license agreement with AvanirPharmaceuticals Inc. for the development and commercialization of Concert'sdeuterium-modified dextromethorphan for the treatment of neurological andpsychiatric disorders.
 
 
Tung says the number of agreements Concert is making in theindustry show that an increasing number of companies are recognizing theapplicability of Concert's technology. It is "noteworthy," he adds, that thecompany hasn't raised any venture money since 2008, "so the partnerships havebeen important in terms of our being capital-efficient."
 
"We're looking for 2013 to be a big year for us not only forthe partnerships like Celgene, Jazz and Avanir, but also for the products thatwe think will be the most important to defining us in the future," says Tung.

Kelsey Kaustinen

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