Celgene to acquire Juno Therapeutics for around $9 billion as part of push into CAR-T therapy space

Celgene signed a definitive merger agreement to acquire Juno Therapeutics for $87 per share in cash, or a total of approximately $9 billion, the companies said Monday, confirming reports last week of a potential transaction. Through the deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter, Celgene will gain Juno's experimental CAR-T therapy JCAR017 (lisocabtagene maraleucel). 

"The acquisition of Juno builds on our shared vision to discover and develop transformative medicines for patients with incurable blood cancers," commented Celgene CEO Mark Alles. The executive added "Juno's advanced cellular immunotherapy portfolio and research capabilities strengthen Celgene's global leadership in haematology and add new drivers for growth beyond 2020." For further analysis, read ViewPoints: Celgene makes its move in CAR-T.

JCAR017, which is directed against CD19, is currently being investigated in a pivotal programme for relapsed and/or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, with potential US approval expected in 2019. Juno is also developing JCARH125 against BCMA, which represents a target in multiple myeloma.

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In 2015, Celgene and Juno entered into a 10-year agreement to jointly develop treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases including CAR-T therapies. Celgene currently holds a 9.7-percent stake in the drugmaker, while the offer price represents a 91-percent premium to Juno's closing share price on January 16, the day rumours of a deal surfaced. 

According to Celgene, the purchase of Juno is expected to be dilutive to earnings this year by approximately $0.50 per share and "incrementally additive" to net product sales in 2020.

Commenting on the deal, Jefferies analysts said the move is "smart" because "the buyout would enable Celgene to integrate Juno's entire cell therapy platform and bring it all in house." Meanwhile, David Nierengarten of Wedbush noted that "Celgene has a big revenue hole to fill over the next few years" and Juno's treatment could potentially "fill that gap." Celgene's Revlimid, which accounted for about 60 percent of the company's nearly $3.3 billion in fiscal third-quarter sales, will lose patent protection by 2022. 

The news comes after Celgene reached an agreement earlier this month to purchase Impact Biomedicines for up to $7 billion. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Is Celgene plotting its long awaited move into CAR-T proper?

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