Celgene and Nimbus Partner for Autoimmune Disorders

October 3, 2017

The alliance gives Celgene an option to acquire programs run by Nimbus Therapeutics for developing therapeutics to treat autoimmune disorders.

On Oct. 3, 2017, Nimbus Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that applies computational expertise to drug discovery and development, announced a long-term strategic alliance in the field of immunology with Celgene.

Under the agreement, Celgene will receive an option to acquire programs in the alliance up through a clinical inflection point. In return, Nimbus will receive an upfront payment and potential downstream milestone payments for each program Celgene chooses to acquire. Nimbus will retain control of research and development activities for each program prior to the program’s option point. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The programs covered under the alliance include a preclinical study targeting tyrosine kinase 2 (Tyk2), a signal-transduction kinase for pro-inflammatory cytokine receptors, including interleukin-23 (IL-23), IL-12, and type-I interferons. Tyk2 is thought to play a central role in the inflammatory response and is a high-potential target for treating autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.

The alliance also covers Nimbus’ preclinical small-molecule stimulator of interferon genes (STING) antagonist program. This program seeks to block the role played by STING in activating the innate immune system response in lupus and other interferonopathies. Nimbus will continue to own and develop its other program, a small-molecule STING agonist program, for immuno-oncology, which is not part of the agreement.

Boosting Celgene’s Pipeline

This alliance follows other moves earlier this year by Celgene to boost its pipeline in autoimmune disorders. In January 2017, the company agreed to acquire Delinia, a privately held US biotechnology company, in a deal worth $775 million and formed an exclusive research collaboration worth $55 million with Anokion, a privately held Swiss biopharmaceutical firm.

The Delinia acquisition, which closed in the first quarter of 2017, gave Celgene a lead program, DEL106, an IL-2 mutein Fc-fusion protein, as well as related second-generation programs. The molecule is designed to upregulate regulatory T cells (Tregs)-immune cells that maintain natural self-tolerance and immune-system homeostasis-as a means of restoring immune system balance in autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

In the collaboration with Anokion, Celgene obtained an equity interest in that company and the exclusive right to acquire the company at pre-specified option exercise points. Anokion is developing therapeutics for multiple autoimmune indications using its antigen-specific immune tolerance platform, which involves engineering antigens relevant to a broad range of autoimmune disorders to bind glycophorin A, a surface protein unique to red blood cells. The company is also developing a liver-targeted tolerance approach in which engineered antigens are attached to liver cells.

Source: Nimbus Therapeutics