New Jersey-based biotech giant Celgene is in talks to buy Seattle-based biotech Juno Therapeutics, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Juno’s stock rose more than 50 percent on the news Wednesday morning, settling at $67.20 by 10 a.m. PT.
Juno declined to comment on the report.
If a deal were in the works, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise: The companies have been working closely since 2015, when Celgene made a $1 billion deal with Juno that included a license for Celgene to commercialize Juno’s immunotherapy cancer treatments.
The report of acquisition talks, based on anonymous sources close to the companies, did not include terms of any potential deal. Juno’s market value was $5.5 billion Tuesday afternoon and jumped to $7.7 billion Wednesday. Its competitor, Kite Pharma, was acquired for $11.9 billion last year.
Juno is one of the leading developers of CAR T immunotherapy treatments for blood cancers, despite being forced to pull one of its leading candidates last year following patient deaths in clinical trials. The treatments genetically engineer patients’ immune cells to find and destroy cancer and have been making headway in blood cancers for several years.
While Juno is late to bring any treatments to the market, its flagship treatment, JCAR017, has shown early success and is currently in the first of three clinical trial phases needed to pass FDA approval. In November, the company also handily beat analyst expectations when it came to revenue, raking in $44 million against an expected $16 million.
In a previous interview, Juno CEO Hans Bishop told GeekWire the company is confident JCAR017 will be the “best” CAR T treatment for CD19 cancers, like leukemia and lymphoma.
“And, why do we say that? Because we’re showing levels of efficacy — or, what I really mean in proper English, patients getting durable remissions,” he said. “And with doing that, with very low levels of toxicity. That’s the goal of any medicine, is to maximize your benefit and minimize your toxicity.”