Working in Concert
June 2013
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


LEXINGTON, Mass.óConcert Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Celgene Corp. have formed a strategic collaboration focused on deuterium- modified compounds targeting cancer and inflammation. The collaboration will be focused on a single program initially, but has the potential to expand to include several targets.  
"Celgene's deep experience developing clinically meaningful therapies, and their global commitment to patients across multiple therapeutic areas, make them an ideal partner," Dr. Roger Tung, president and CEO of Concert, commented in a press release. "We look forward to working with Celgene to evaluate the potential benefits of deuterium modification for a number of programs emerging in our pipeline."  
Per the terms of the agreement, Celgene will make an upfront payment to Concert of an undisclosed amount. Should Celgene decide to exercise its program options, Concert will be eligible for more than $300 million in development, regulatory and sales milestone payments for each program that Celgene selects for development. Concert is also entitled to tiered royalties on product sales for each program advanced by Celgene.  
Celgene, which focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of novel therapies for cancer and inflammatory diseases, has a broad product pipeline in both areas. In oncology, the company is advancing compounds for the treatment of cancers such as bladder, ovarian, pancreatic, melanoma, breast and non-small cell lung cancer. In the realm of inflammation and immunology, Celgene is advancing therapies for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and autoimmune diseases.  
Concert specializes in the creation of medicines through its proprietary deuterated chemical entity (DCE) platform, which is centered on the use of deuterium, a safe and naturally occurring element. As Concert notes on its website, "in select cases, deuterium can improve upon the metabolic properties of a drug with little or no change in its intrinsic pharmacology." The company's approach to drug discovery "begins with compounds that have been previously characterized," which may have good pharmacological properties but a less-than-ideal absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion profile. By modifying the compounds with deuterium, "we can significantly modulate the formation of different metabolites, either or up or down regulating metabolites," says Tung.
Some of Concert's leading product candidates, developed through its DCE platform, include CTP-499, a potentially first-in-class treatment for diabetic kidney disease that is currently in Phase II testing, and CTP-354, a non-sedating subtype-selective GABA(A) modulator being developed as a potential treatment for spasticity, neuropathic pain and anxiety.  
Tung feels that Concert's DCE program offers a great deal of flexibility in terms of the therapeutic areas in which deuterium can have a positive effect on drug composition. "We are therapeutically agnostic in terms of the kind of indications that we can use the technology for," he says. "We certainly see that the effects are predicated on the metabolism of compounds, the route of clearance of the compound and the effects of metabolites of any particular compound."  
The agreement is one of several for Concert in the past year. The company announced a license agreement with Jazz Pharmaceuticals PLC in February centered on Concert's deuterium-modified sodium oxybate compounds, including C-10323, Concert's preclinical drug candidate for the treatment of narcolepsy. In February 2012, Concert announced a license agreement with Avanir Pharmaceuticals Inc. for the development and commercialization of Concert's deuterium-modified dextromethorphan for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.  
Tung says the number of agreements Concert is making in the industry show that an increasing number of companies are recognizing the applicability of Concert's technology. It is "noteworthy," he adds, that the company hasn't raised any venture money since 2008, "so the partnerships have been important in terms of our being capital-efficient."
"We're looking for 2013 to be a big year for us not only for the partnerships like Celgene, Jazz and Avanir, but also for the products that we think will be the most important to defining us in the future," says Tung.
Code: E061325

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