Acceleron Weans Itself Off VC, Continues its Roll with Pharma Partner Dollars

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this new therapeutic area,” said Shire’s Arthur Tzianabos, a vice president in the Human Genetic Therapies unit, who was one of the key players in the deal between his firm and Acceleron.

Acceleron’s deal with Shire could be worth up to $498 million in payments and milestone fees related to development of drugs for muscular disorders. In addition, the biotech has kept full commercial rights to its potential muscular dystrophy drug in the U.S and it is eligible for royalties on Shire’s sales of the treatment outside of North America, where the bigger drug maker has rights to sell it. If development of the drug goes as hoped, the plan is to produce it at one of Shire’s new bio-manufacturing plants in Lexington. (Shire employs about 1,500 workers in Lexington and Cambridge.)

In the meantime, Acceleron has been collecting payments from Celgene for the development of another drug candidate (ACE-011) that could treat anemia caused by chemotherapy. The firm’s experimental treatment aims to block a cellular signal, which leads to the destruction of oxygen-carrying red blood cells and bone tissue. With the signal blocked, the intent is to increase red blood cell levels and increase bone growth in cancer patients who develop anemia. The Celgene has agreed to pay up to $510 million in fees tied to the development of the drug, yet Acceleron has also agreed to share with its partner the right to sell the drug in the lucrative U.S. market, according to the terms of the deal.

And Acceleron has even more assets in its pipeline that it says have potential to generate more deals, and more cash. Acceleron has recently begun talks with pharma companies interested in a separate cancer drug in early development called ACE-041, Knopf says. The drug targets a receptor linked to tissue growth, like its other treatments, yet this particular compound would kill cancer cells by preventing the growth of blood vessels that are needed to nourish tumors. And akin to Acceleron’s firms other experimental drugs, this treatment has been showing the type of promising results in an initial clinical trial that gets pharma companies interested.

“We have some very nice data from advanced cancer patients,” said Knopf, whose company won’t reveal full data from the study until after it concludes. “We’ve got a lot of initial interest in that, and we expect will have a partnership [for that drug] within a year’s time.”

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