Celgene will partner with Vividion Therapeutics to identify and develop small molecules against targets for a variety of oncology, inflammatory, and neurodegenerative indications, Vividion said today.

The companies have launched a strategic research collaboration that will generate for Vividion at least $101 million upfront, including an unspecified equity investment from Celgene.

Vividion said it will be joined by Celgene in advancing new small molecules that function through the ubiquitin proteasome system, modulating specific protein levels for therapeutic benefit.

The collaboration is intended to apply Vividion’s platform to identify ligands and discover drug candidates against high-value, difficult-to-drug targets by identifying previously unrecognized druggable sites directly in live cells.

According to Vividion, the platform is designed to access the broad set of proteins expressed in human cells, and for the first time will allow protein–drug interactions to be assessed with precision directly in native biological systems—compared with conventional drug discovery, which requires protein isolation in order to study proteins one at a time.

Vividion agreed to lead initial discovery efforts and identify programs to be included in the collaboration, with Celgene holding rights to opt in on those programs upon FDA acceptance of an Investigational New Drug (IND) application.

For some programs, including the first program, Celgene will receive exclusive worldwide rights, with the potential for Vividion to receive up to double-digit royalties on sales and milestone payments. Other programs will allow for Celgene and Vividion to share equally in either U.S. or worldwide development costs and commercialization profits and losses, Vividion added.

The collaboration with Vividion will last at least four years, with Celgene having the option of extending the partnership for two more years in return for making an additional undisclosed payment.

Celgene will join several venture capital firms as investors in privately held Vividion.

$50M Series A Launch

Last year, Arch Venture Partners and Versant Venture announced the launch of Vividion, which emerged from stealth mode last year when it spun out of The Scripps Research Institute with $50 million in Series A financing invested by both firms and founding investor Cardinal Partners.  

Cardinal’s managing general partner John K. Clarke is part of Vividion’s founding team, as are three Scripps researchers whose platform the company was formed to commercialize: Benjamin F. Cravatt III, Ph.D., Phil S. Baran, Ph.D., and Jin-Quan Yu, Ph.D. Their platform is designed to create proteome-wide drug interaction maps, allowing the definition of in situ drug interaction sites on both known and previously undruggable targets. 

Before today’s announcement, the San Diego biotech had raised a total $53.6 million in two rounds, according to Crunchbase.

For Celgene, the partnership represents its first public move to bolster its pipeline since last week, when the biotech giant was rebuffed by the FDA. The agency sent Celgene a Refuse to File letter in response to its New Drug Application (NDA) for ozanimod in relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS). Celgene has been buffeted by another clinical setback in recent months, the late-stage failure of GED-0301 (mongersen), in Crohn’s disease.

However, Celgene has also acted to expand its offerings through a pair of acquisitions announced in January: Celgene is buying Juno Therapeutics for approximately $9 billion and blood cancer treatment developer Impact Biomedicines for up to $2.35 billion.

Celgene aims to broaden a portfolio that is now anchored by the multi-indication oncology treatment Revlimid® (lenalidomide). The thalidomide analog generated $8.187 billion in sales last year, up 17.4% from $6.974 billion in 2016—but is expected to begin facing generic competition in four years. Celgene has allowed Natco Pharma to begin selling its version of the drug in the U.S. starting March 2022, under a volume-limited license the companies agreed to in 2015 to settle a patent dispute.

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