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Celgene rumoured to be revving up for Juno buyout

Published on 17/01/18 at 09:43am

Celgene has already started off the year with a bang, announcing a deal with Impact Biomedicines worth a potential $7 billion, and it is reported that it is already in the process of making its second big acquisition of the year.

Celgene’s target is Juno Therapeutics – a developer of CAR-T treatments that once held the pole position in the field before deaths in trials finally led the company to abandon its lead candidate.

However, Juno bounced back with early stage data from another of its CAR-T candidates meaning that it once again began to be talked about as a potential player in the scene. Particularly, due to the fact that the data posted was strong, with overall response rate in 76% of patients.

If the move does transpire, it would not come as a complete surprise to the industry, given that Celgene already has a partnership in place with Juno.

The deal, signed back in 2015, is a 10-year partnership that was described, at the time, as a broad strategic collaboration to develop and commercialise immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Celgene is also in need of a vigorous shake-up of its pipeline, with Revlimid its core growth driver facing patent expirations and few options to replace the revenue that the biotech would lose as a result.

Any potential deal with Juno would have echoes of Gilead’s $12 billion takeover of Kite Pharma; Gilead, likewise, needed another driver as its Hep C treatments began to experience issues with the volume of potential patients, driving down revenue.

So far, both companies involved have refused to comment on the story but as Celgene’s prior deal with Impact shows, it is prepared to spend in order to acquire its targets. Impact was only two years out of the gate when Celgene plumped a potential $7 billion on the line for a treatment that had been rejected by Sanofi.

Juno's shares bounced in after-hours trading, hitting $65.25 after closing at $45.60.

Ben Hargreaves

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