Celgene to buy experimental gene therapy cancer drug maker Juno Therapeutics for $9 bn

US biotechnology company Celgene Corp has struck a deal to buy Juno Therapeutics Inc for $9 billion in cash in order to get the target's experimental gene therapy drug to treat cancer.

A successful transaction would be Celgene's second big deal of 2018 after it offered to buy cancer drug maker Impact Biomedicines for as much as $7 billion in order to acquire fedratinib, a kinase inhibitor that has shown promise as a potential treatment for a type of blood cancer called myelofibrosi. (See: Celgene to Acquire Impact Biomedicines for upto $7 bn)

Celgene's bid represents a nearly 29 per cent premium to Juno's last closing price of $67.81.

Celgene expects to fund the transaction through a combination of existing cash and new debt.

Celgene is familiar with Seattle-based Juno and had invested $1billion in 2015 in the company to gain the rights to revenues from some of its drugs, and also holds around 9.7 per cent stake in the company.

Juno Therapeutics was founded in 2013 through a collaboration of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and pediatrics partner Seattle Children's Research Institute.

It has been working on Car-T, which harnesses the body's own immune cells to recognise and attack malignant cells.

But the company had a series of setbacks after several deaths during clinical trials in 2016 which forced it to abandon work on its most advanced product.

Celegene said that the acquisition will also add a novel scientific platform and scalable manufacturing capabilities which will complement its own leadership in hematology and oncology.

In collaboration with Juno's team in Seattle, Celgene plans to expand its existing center of excellence for immuno-oncology translational medicine by leveraging Juno's research and development facility in Seattle, WA as well as Juno's manufacturing facility in Bothell, Washington.

"The acquisition of Juno builds on our shared vision to discover and develop transformative medicines for patients with incurable blood cancers," said Mark Alles, Celgene's CEO. "Juno's advanced cellular immunotherapy portfolio and research capabilities strengthen Celgene's global leadership in hematology and adds new drivers for growth beyond 2020."

"The people at Juno channel their passion for science and patients towards a common goal of finding cures by creating cell therapies that help people live longer, better lives," said Hans Bishop, Juno's president and CEO. "Continuing this work will take scientific prowess, manufacturing excellence and global reach. This union will provide all three."

Celgene, based in Summit, New Jersey, is an integrated global biopharmaceutical company engaged primarily in the discovery, development and commercialization of innovative therapies for the treatment of cancer and inflammatory diseases through next-generation solutions in protein homeostasis, immuno-oncology, epigenetics.