Making monoclonal antibodies for multiple myeloma
August 2013
by Lori Lesko  |  Email the author


MUNICH, Germany—Aimed at developing a novel therapeutic antibody to treat multiple myeloma—a painful and often fatal blood cell cancer disease—German biotech MorphoSys and global biopharmaceutical Celgene Corp., headquartered in Summit, N.J., have signed a pact to jointly develop MOR202 worldwide and co-promote the antibody in Europe.  
Under the terms of the agreement, MorphoSys will receive an upfront license fee of $92 million, while Celgene plans to invest $60 million to subscribe for new shares of MorphoSys, the company stated. The new shares will be issued at a price to be determined upon the transaction becoming effective following clearance by the antitrust authorities under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act.  
MOR202 is a fully human monoclonal antibody targeting CD38, designed to treat patients with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that begins in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies) and certain leukemias. CD38 is a protein found on the surface of these tumor cells that acts as a target for the MOR202 antibody. Once attached, the MOR202 attracts natural killer cells in the body to identify and kill the tumor cells. MOR202 is currently being evaluated in a Phase I/IIa trial in patients with relapsed/refractory myeloma. MorphoSys and Celgene will collaborate on the development of MOR202 in multiple myeloma and other indications, and share costs.
"This alliance takes MorphoSys to the next stage of our corporate development," MorphoSys CEO Simon Moroney stated in a news release. "By moving up the value chain, we have the opportunity to develop a commercial organization that expands on our significant research, development and technology expertise of today."
Targeting CD38 "has matured to be a highly innovative and very promising approach in multiple myeloma, and we are committed to retain a larger share of the potential upside," Moroney stated. "Celgene, one of the leading innovators in multiple myeloma, is the ideal partner to develop the compound efficiently and deliver to patients with multiple myeloma, worldwide."  
Mark Alles, executive vice president and global head of hematology and oncology at Celgene, states, "Strategic investments in next-generation medical innovation make it possible for physicians to turn incurable cancers like multiple myeloma into chronic, more manageable diseases. The collaboration with MorphoSys enables us to rapidly advance a promising therapeutic antibody in a disease where significant progress is being made, but where patients continue to need new treatment options."  
"The agreement with Celgene is one of the most important deals in MorphoSys' history, as it allows MorphoSys to mature into a commercial-stage biopharmaceutical company," Claudia Gutjahr-Loser, head of corporate communications at MorphoSys, tells DDNEWS. "MorphoSys also can participate to a higher degree in the future value of MOR202, and develop the compound with one of the leaders in the multiple myeloma market."  
Celgene is one of the leading players in the field of multiple myeloma and views MOR202 as a high-priority asset, she adds.  
"We believe co-development with Celgene will be efficient and fast," Gutjahr-Loser says. "In addition, Celgene has a broadly established network in the multiple myeloma community, which not only allows a faster development, but likely also a broader and better understanding of patients' and physicians' needs in the field. This could lead to the optimal distribution of MOR202 to patients to help further improve the current treatment in multiple myeloma."  
However, the number of new cases of multiple myeloma around the world has been on the rise. Multiple myeloma strikes most of its victims between the ages of 40 and 60. Of the estimated new cases and deaths from multiple myeloma in the United States in 2013, the U.S. National Institutes of Health reports 22,350 new cases and 10,710 deaths. Datamonitor predicts that between 2012 and 2030, incidents of multiple myeloma cases will increase by 47 percent in the United States, Japan and the major EU markets of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.  
"Since incidents of most cancers increases with age, the same is true for multiple myeloma. Hence, in recent years, multiple myeloma incidence rates have been slowly but steadily increasing," Gutjahr-Loser says.
Code: E081325

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