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A new collaboration FORMAtion
WATERTOWN, Mass.—You can’t have too much of a good thing, as the saying goes, and for Celgene Corp. and FORMA Therapeutics, it seems that applies to working with good partners as well. Just shy of a year after announcing their collaboration in April 2013, the companies have inked a multi-year strategic alliance that could touch on a number of therapeutic fields, including oncology, which is a key focus for FORMA.
Per the terms of the agreement, Celgene paid FORMA $225 million up front, and the companies have begun a collaboration that will last three and a half years. In addition to the original duration of the deal, Celgene has the option to enter into up to two additional collaborations with two-year terms each, for additional payments totaling roughly $375 million. Should Celgene choose to establish the entire trio of collaborations, and should they all prove successful, the collaborations may extend for seven-and-a-half years all told. In the third collaboration term, Celgene will have an exclusive option to acquire FORMA, including U.S. rights to all licensed programs and global rights to other wholly owned FORMA programs at that time. All three collaborations will have a research strategy, though some have yet to be defined, and FORMA noted in a press release that “The scope and potential duration of this collaboration allows the parties to comprehensively evaluate emerging target families for which FORMA’s platform has exceptional strength.”
Celgene will also have an option to license the rights to select current and future FORMA programs in return for additional undisclosed development and regulatory milestone payments. FORMA will be responsible for advancing programs through Phase 1, and Celgene will be responsible for all global development activities and costs following the completion of Phase 1 clinical trials. FORMA will maintain U.S. rights to all such licensed assets, including responsibility for manufacturing and commercialization, and will retain worldwide rights for products not licensed to Celgene.
“Independent from the previously signed partnership with Celgene whereby they secured ex-U.S. rights to a defined set of protein homeostasis targets, this second agreement expands across FORMA’s preclinical and future clinical development efforts, encompassing numerous protein target families and covering a broad range of therapeutic areas,” Dr. Steven Tregay, president and CEO of FORMA, said in a press release. “Importantly, this new alliance enables FORMA to maintain autonomy in defining our research strategy and conducting discovery through early clinical development of our product portfolio. It aligns our company with Celgene’s global leadership in hematology and immune-mediated inflammatory diseases and a shared strategic directive to transform healthcare.”
This agreement stems from the success of their previous collaboration, in which FORMA and Celgene agreed to collaborate on the discovery, development and commercialization of drug candidates to regulate protein homeostasis targets. Protein homeostasis, in brief, is “a very important mechanism by which cells control the presence of key proteins,” explains Tregay. It involves a highly regulated network of pathways that oversee the biogenesis, folding, transport and degradation of proteins. Oncology, neurodegenerative and other disorders are all areas in which protein homeostasis is important.
Tregay says Celgene is an ideal partner for a number of reasons, and one of which is that since FORMA doesn’t quite have the capabilities to undertake a global pivotal trial, “it really made sense to leverage Celgene’s terrific global development capabilities.”
“Celgene is a company that really believes in following deep science and making commitments to really new emerging areas of biology,” says Tregay. “And they’re very aggressive about not only doing great science internally, but accessing great science externally, so they’ve got a great track record in doing deals. What makes them a great partner is several key things. They really look to understand how their partner approaches it, and really look to empower you.”
“This second collaboration with FORMA is based upon a very strategic relationship and complete alignment between FORMA’s and Celgene’s R&D efforts. This expansive collaboration will allow FORMA’s powerful drug discovery engine to probe multiple emerging areas of biology in the pursuit of step-ahead therapies for future patients,” Dr. George Golumbeski, senior vice president for Business Development at Celgene Corporation, commented in a statement. “Both organizations take pride in developing creative alliances that fully enable the science to succeed, and this initiative is truly reflective of that concept.”