Summit-based biotech firm Celgene Corp. announced today it will buy privately held biotechnology company Avila Therapeutics Inc., of Bedford, Mass., for $350 million in cash, plus up to $575 million more in milestone payments.
Avila’s research and development platforms will complement Celgene’s work in hematology and immune inflammatory diseases, which is a growing area at Celgene.
“With an acquisition like this, with a very innovative and what we think is a potentially powerful research platform, it’s good for us as we look out into the long term for our pipeline. It’s something that we look for on a regular basis, this idea of game-changing science,” said Greg Geissman, a Celgene spokesman.
As part of the acquisition, Celgene also will make a milestone payment of up to $195 million, contingent on the development and approval of an Avila blood cancer therapy, and $380 million more in milestones payments contingent on the development and approval of additional Avila drug candidates, according to the announcement.
Geissman declined to comment on possible relocation of research or other functions to New Jersey, since the deal has not yet closed, but he did say that the company looks for opportunities to grow in the Boston bioscience corridor.
Debbie Hart, president of biotechnology trade association BioNJ, said New Jersey’s commercialization talent, which has grown largely out of the pharmaceutical industry, reinforces the state’s position as a dominant force in biotech.
“Companies, as they get a little further along in their development and they’re looking to commercialize product, they will look to New Jersey for this great talent. By virtue of that talent, we will be able to attract companies at a later stage at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world,” Hart said.
According to Hart, New Jersey’s biotech industry has grown from 80 companies in 1998 to more than 335 today, a number that doesn’t include big pharma or medical device companies. In 2011, at least 20 companies started up in the state, relocated here or expanded in the state, according to data from BioNJ.
Avila focuses on developing targeted covalent drugs for treating cancer, autoimmune diseases and hepatitis C.
Celgene said it expects to complete the deal in the first quarter.