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Agios doubles staff, following Celgene deal

Thu, 07/29/2010 - 10:35am
Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology

Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc. has doubled in size following its deal with Celgene Corp., which was announced in April.

The Cambridge-based company’s head count now stands at around 45 workers, up from 22 before the deal, and Agios officials say the company will keep growing. Agios currently leases 20,000 square feet of space in biotech-heavy Kendall square and plans to double that figure.

 

“The deal has allowed us to really go after this new field of cancer metabolism. We needed to have enough people and resources, and for that we needed a transformative partnership, not a licencing of one product,” Agios CEO David Schenkein said. Soon after his appointment a year ago, Schenkein began seeking out such a partnership and had been in discussions with multiple pharma and biotech companies about a potential deal.

The deal with New Jersey-based Celgene is worth $130 million up front and up to $120 million in milestone payments, in addition to potential royalties if any approved drugs result from the collaboration. The deal gives Celgene the option to license any drug target that Agios develops in connection with cancer metabolism, but allows Agios to develop drug candidates using different technology. Schenkein said the company’s goal is to commercialize its own drugs, in addition to out-licensing them.

The field of cancer metabolism investigates which nutrients feed particular cancer tumors, and which enzymes help break down those nutrients, helping tumors grow. This knowledge may enable the development of cancer drugs aimed at starving the tumors of the food they need.

The company also announced it has recruited a leader in the field, Lewis Cantley, to expand his role within the company. Cantley, a member of the Agios Board and Scientific Advisory Board is adding a new role as Distinguished Scientific Advisor to the company. Cantley is director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School.  He will spend one day per week at the company.

“What’s most exciting about attracting someone of this caliber to spend more time with Agios is that it speaks to the validity of both cancer metabolism and Agios’ potential and capability,” Schenkein said.

 

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