GSK dominates, potentially paying top dollar toward its sleep and inflammatory disorder pipelines.

A look at this year’s biggest deals shows that a few core players were doing most of the spending. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) stole three of the top-five spots. While these transactions are worth a lot of money on paper, big chunks of the promised dollars depend on successful development, full approval, and sales levels.

GlaxoSmithKline’s deal with Actelion valued at CHF 3.3 billion, or almost $3.2 billion, is the front-runner for alliances forged this year. The company put down 4.45% of this headline-making figure, or CHF 150 million, for exclusive, worldwide rights (excluding Japan) to Actelion’s late-stage drug for insomnia. If the treatment successfully completes the recently begun Phase III trials and wins approval, Acetelion will earn CHF 415 million. The clincher will be the further development of this compound in two other indications, with milestones reaching CHF 2.735 billion.

Second place goes to Celgene, which committed to pay Acceleron Pharma $1.87 billion, with $50 million upfront. The agreement covers an early-stage bone loss compound and three discovery programs in the same indication. Another $510 million will come in milestones for the Phase I candidate and $437 million for each of the discovery programs.

The number three spot belongs to Takeda, which paid Amgen $300 million upfront in an alliance worth $1.77 billion. The company gained Japanese rights to 13 Amgen molecules and became Amgen’s global partner for oncology candidate motesanib diphosphate. Phase III development in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) which was recently suspended due to higher early mortality rates in the study group, with a recommendation for squamous NSCLC patients to get off the drug. The upfront fee represents about 16.9% of the total value, making this one of the sweeter deals given that candidates are already in Phase I and II studies and there is still potential for motesanib diphosphate to be developed for nonsquamous NSCLC.

GSK fills the number four and five positions, investing about $2.85 billion totally in its inflammatory disease programs. The company paid Cellzome $25.31 million, out of a potential $1.45 billion to license candidates directed against seven targets. Cellzome is banking on achieving various development, regulatory, and commercial goals to earn the remaining $207.47 million per program.

Sneaking in another alliance just before year end, GSK agreed to shell out $1.4 billion to Archemix. For an initial fee of $27.5 million, Archemix will discover aptamers against seven targets in inflammatory diseases. Each program carries a milestone-dependent earn out of $200 million.

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