Agios could receive another $120 million in milestones for each program that Celgene pursues.

Celgene is paying Agios Pharmaceuticals $130 million up front to develop disease-modifying cancer drugs based on Agios’ technology for targeting metabolic enzymes involved in cancer-cell proliferation. The deal gives Celgene an initial period of exclusivity during which it will have first right to license any drugs resulting from Agios’ cancer metabolism research platform at the end of Phase I trials.

The $130 million up-front fee includes an equity investment in Agios, which will lead discovery and early translational development for all the cancer metabolism programs. Once a program has been licensed by Celgene, the firm will head and fund global development and commercialization. Celgene has an option to extend its exclusivity period in return for additional funding.

Agios could receive up to $120 million in milestones plus royalties on sales for each program Celgene takes on. Agios may also participate in the development and commercialization of certain products in the U.S.

“Agios’ approach is unique and groundbreaking,” remarks Thomas Daniel, M.D., Celgene’s president of research. “We look for early opportunities in the IDH1 and PKM2 programs and see exceptional value in new targets Agios is uniquely positioned to prosecute.”

Agios says that its cancer metabolism research platform is designed to target those metabolic enzymes and pathways that provide the most attractive intervention points for treating cancer. Combining biology, metabolomics, biochemistry, and informatics, the firm claims that its technology is uniquely capable of unraveling the metabolic networks of cancer cells by identifying metabolic pathways that are only used by disease-relevant proliferative cells. The technology is also being exploited to discover biomarkers and treatment strategies that couple the use of metabolically targeted therapeutics with companion diagnostics.

Agios is initially targeting three cancer metabolic pathways: glycolysis , fatty acid metabolism, and autophagy. The company states, however, that its platform could also be applied to other diseases including autoimmune, inflammatory, and neurological diseases. In December 2009, Agios received funding from the nonprofit Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2) organization to further investigate IDH1 gene mutations in brain cancer.

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