* Celgene extends cancer drug exclusivity deal with Agios
* Agrees to pay $20 mln for one-year extension
* Agreement covers cancer metabolism drugs
By Toni Clarke
Oct 5 Celgene Corp (CELG.O) has agreed to pay
$20 million to extend an exclusive partnership with private
drugmaker Agios Pharmaceuticals to develop a novel class of
Celgene, a leading maker of drugs to treat blood cancers,
has been expanding into solid tumors. Agios, which was formed
in 2008, is developing drugs that interfere with the ability of
cancer cells to feed themselves.
The agreement extends by one year the terms of a three-year
exclusivity deal signed by the two companies in April 2010.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Agios said Celgene has the
ability to extend the exclusive collaboration further in
Agios is working on a new approach to treating cancer --
targeting altered metabolic enzymes that feed cancer cells.
"We know that cancers need two to four hundred times more
nutrients than normal cells," David Schenkein, Agios's chief
executive officer, said in an interview. "They need to build
biomass quickly so they've rewired their enzymes to feed their
Schenkein was formerly senior vice president of clinical
hematology/oncology at Genentech, a leading cancer drug maker
that is now a unit of Roche Holding AG ROG.VX.
"We see cancer metabolism as an exciting new field of
development," Schenkein said. "Where we've demonstrated the
most progress is identifying targets, validating them and
creating small molecules to hit those targets."
Summit, New Jersey-based Celgene decided to extend the
exclusivity period because it has been impressed by the first
18 months of the collaboration, said Dr. Thomas Daniel,
Celgene's president of research.
Under the terms of the original agreement, Agios received a
$130 million upfront payment, including an equity investment.
Celgene has an exclusive option to license any promising drug
candidates at the end of clinical testing in a Phase I trial.
Daniel said Celgene is interested, among other targets, in
the IDH1 enzyme, shown to play a role in cancer formation,
through altered metabolic activity.
"IDH1 is an enzyme that's important in metabolizing
glucose, and mutant forms generate an unusual metabolic side
product which accumulates in very high levels in cancer
patients," said Daniel.
As the field has evolved, Daniel said there is evidence of
the importance of the IDH1 target beyond acute myelogenous
leukemia, where it was discovered, but is also important in
Celgene decided to extend the exclusivity period nearly two
years before the preset deadline, which Schenkein said was in
(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Boston; Editing by Steve