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AstraZeneca acquires Caelum Biosciences for $150M

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AstraZeneca has acquired Caelum Biosciences, a small clinical-stage biotechnology company studying a rare protein disease. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has acquired Caelum Biosciences, a small clinical-stage biotechnology company, for $150 million.

The New Jersey-based Caelum was founded by New York-based biopharma company Fortress Biotech in 2017 to develop a monoclonal antibody for the treatment of light-chain (AL) amyloidosis, a rare abnormal protein disease.

In July, AstraZeneca acquired major Boston biopharma firm Alexion, which held an option to fully acquire Caelum under a 2019 collaboration agreement. Exercising that option, AstraZeneca paid Caelum shareholders $150 million upfront at closing Oct. 6. The New Jersey firm, which reportedly employs 11 people, is also eligible to receive another $350 million if the company achieves a series of regulatory and commercial milestones.

Caelum’s lead drug candidate, CAEL-101, is in late-stage testing with about 400 patients in two global trials. It has already received Orphan Drug Designation from both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Commission as a potential therapy for patients with AL amyloidosis. Additionally, the FDA granted Fast Track Designation to CAEL-101 for AL amyloidosis in June.

AL amyloidosis is a rare disease in which misfolded amyloid proteins build up in organs throughout the body, including the heart and kidneys, causing significant organ damage and failure that may ultimately be fatal. Approximately 20,000 people across the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. live with amyloidosis.

“With a median survival time of less than 18 months following diagnosis, there is an urgent need for new treatments for this devastating disease. CAEL-101 has the potential to be the first therapy to target and remove amyloid deposits from organ tissues, improve organ function, and, ultimately, lead to longer lives for these patients,” Alexion CEO Marc Dunoyer said in a statement.

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