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Celgene, MorphoSys Partner on Multiple Myeloma Antibody

CD38 protein (Emw/Wikimedia Commons)

CD38 protein (Emw/Wikimedia Commons)

Celgene Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company in Summit, New Jersey, agreed to license  technology and invest in the biotechnology company MorphoSys AG in Munich, Germany for commercializing a monoclonal antibody developed by MorphoSys to treat multiple myeloma and some forms of leukemia. The total potential value of the deal, if all contingencies are met, is €628 million ($US 818 million).

The therapy, code named MOR202, is a human antibody that targets the CD38 protein found on the surface of some cells involved with the immune system, among other functions. MorphoSys developed MOR202 through its Human Combinatorial Antibody Library that generates engineered antibodies to address highly specific therapeutic targets.

In this case, CD38 acts as a target on multiple myeloma and some leukemias cells for the MOR202 antibody. Once  MOR202 binds to the target cells, it attracts natural immune system cells to identify and kill the tumor cells.

In preclinical lab studies MorphoSys found MOR202 to reduce the toxicity of multiple myeloma cells, and when given with other drugs, enhanced their performance. The company is currently recruiting patients for a clinical trial to test the safety and gain early evidence of efficacy of the antibody, working alone and with three other drugs.

The new agreement gives Celgene worldwide rights to MOR202, in exchange for a one-time license fee of €70.8 million, and an investment of €46.2 in new MorphoSys shares, at a premium of 15 percent above the closing price prior to the deal. Celgene and MorphoSys will also jointly continue development of MOR202, and co-market the therapy in Europe.

In addition, MorphoSys will be eligible for further payments keyed to development, regulatory, and sales milestones. In Europe where MorphoSys and Celgene are co-marketing MOR202, the companies will equally share profits, and MorphoSys will be eligible for royalties on net sales outside Europe.

Earlier this month, GlaxoSmithKline licensed a MorphoSys antibody, MOR103 to treat rheumatoid arthritis. That deal has a potential value to MorphoSys of €445.5 million ($US 579 million), as well as sales royalties.

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