Deal includes early clinical-stage compound for hematologic cancers.

Celgene is buying Avila Therapeutics for $350 million in cash. The deal could be worth an additional $195 million in milestone payments relating to the latter’s lead Phase I-stage Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (Btk) inhibitor AVL-292, and up to another $380 million contingent on the development and approval of candidates developed using Avila’s Avilomics platform. Both firms’ boards have approved the transaction. “We see Avila’s unique approach to protein silencing as an area of great promise for our research initiatives in hematology, oncology, and immune-inflammatory diseases,” comments Tom Daniel, M.D., president of research and early development at Celgene.

Avila is exploiting its Avilomics platform to discover and develop small-molecule drugs that effect protein silencing. The initial focus is on the development of targeted covalent drugs against cancer, autoimmune diseases, and hepatitis C. Lead candidate AVL-292 is in development as a potential treatment for hematologic cancers.

The firm claims its approach leads to the development of drugs that silence target proteins completely as they form a covalent bond. Each candidate is designed to be selective for a specific site on the disease-causing protein, and the durability of the bond minimizes the potential for drug resistance developing due to protein mutation.

Earlier this month Avila earned a $4 million milestone payment from Clovis Oncology on achieving the first milestone in the firms’ EGFR mutant-selective inhibitor (EMSI) alliance. The milestone related to FDA’s approval of Clovis’ IND application to start clinical trials with CO-1686, a targeted inhibitor of EGFR mutations in non-small cell lung cancer, which was developed using the Avilomics platform.

Avila has additional partnerships and option agreements in place with Sanofi, Novartis, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

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