Millennium:Looking for First in Class and Best in Class Opportunities in Oncology and Hematology




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Video title: Millennium:Looking for First in Class and Best in Class Opportunities in Oncology and Hematology
Released on: August 08, 2012. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, filmed at #BIO2012 Convention in Boston, Fintan Walton talks to Dan Curran, Vice President, Corporate Development at Millennium
Acquisition by Takeda and Millennium's functioning as an independent oncology unit for Takeda
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BIO in Boston, in 2012. On this show I have Dan Curran, who is Vice President of Corporate Development at Millennium which of course is now part of Takeda, welcome.
Daniel Curran:
Thank you for being here.
Fintan Walton:
Dan, I suppose one of the first things that people always want to know is you know it's now up some time that Takeda acquired Millennium [PharmaDeals ID = 30116], so could you help our audience better understand how Millennium now fits within the Takeda Group?
Daniel Curran:
Sure and happy too. That's since 2008 May after Takeda acquired us the pretence of which the acquisition occurred was that Millennium would be an independent business unit focused on oncology drug development and commercialization and that has come to pass, so I think of Millennium as sort of an independent business unit wholly owned by Takeda but an organization in-innovates to itself and effectively we are responsible for both the discovery development, and commercialization in the US of all oncology or hematology products that come through Takeda's pipeline and Millennium 's pipeline and we use Takeda's significant resources outside the US on the commercial front to help us commercialize novel breakthrough therapeutics and oncology.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so basically you are the oncology unit independent oncology unit for Takeda, so when that merger occurred or acquisition occurred there are obviously transformations that took place that meant that certain oncology products that were in Takeda would pass over to into Millennium and now embedded in there is that the idea?
Daniel Curran:
Yes correct, exactly. So I think the vision of the Chairman at the time was basically that he would access Millennium 's capabilities and expertise and knowing that oncology was an area that Takeda was perhaps less familiar with certainly on the commercial side and even somewhat on the development side he really wanted to tap into the expertise that resided within the company, so part of the premise of the acquisition was that the products or really programs that had been in development at Takeda for oncology were been brought into Millennium's purview if you will, so Millennium is responsible for all development on oncology products with the Takeda's pipeline including some of the assets that had been part of the original Takeda family prior to that.
Fintan Walton:
Okay so development of all oncology products worldwide the responsibility is with Millennium for that, but when it comes to the marketing of those products Millennium markets oncology products in the US?
Daniel Curran:
Yes that's correct, so we have a significant sales and marketing expertise, and infrastructure here in the US, Millennium is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts though we reach out to our independent but other alternative business units within Takeda to help us on the global basis, so we'll reach out to the European subsidiary, obviously to the Japan marketing team to market in Japan and then the emerging markets group as well.
Millennium's focus on prostate cancer and hematologic malignancies disease areas
Fintan Walton:
Okay so Dan, obviously oncology is quite a broad area, so give us some idea of what the granularity of that oncology franchise you occupy currently within Millennium, but also leading on to your own role which is your corporate development role what you are looking to bring in, so provide us some insight into that.
Daniel Curran:
Yes, so Millennium being an innovative company developed first-in-class proteasome inhibitor called VELCADE, which is marketed by Millennium in the US we've licensed that to Johnson & Johnson [PharmaDeals ID = 13203] ex US, this is prior to the Takeda acquisition obviously and Takeda [PharmaDeals ID = 30116] obviously has a very significant effort in prostate cancer with Lupron their sort of a ground breaking therapy that's been a basis for treatment of prostate cancer for going on 30-years now. So we have a great deal of interest in those two areas, VELCADE is used predominantly in multiple myeloma that was indicated in a few other hematologic malignancies . So there is a significant focus as we think about our development activities in those two disease areas, but more broadly we are interested in what we call sort of first-in-class or fast, best-in-class opportunities that we can particularly think about this specific expertise we have and bring that to bare not just in development but as we think about commercialization. So significant focus on other hematologic malignancies from our perspective of business development we also have a very significant prostate cancer franchise in development so we are always looking to think about bringing in opportunities in prostate cancer , so those two disease areas are of significant interest to us. But more so I think there is a robust pipeline that we have and when we think about business development or corporate development opportunities it's with our pipeline in mind and we want to basically think about areas or targets or mechanisms that will help accentuate or actually compliment our pipeline of assets. So from our business development perspective we are constantly looking for assets that may be useful in combination or perhaps instead of existing agents that we have within our pipeline and we have really broad pipeline that's focused across really a whole variety of both solid tumors as well as hematologic malignancies and cancer .
Approach towards opportunities in antibodies and small molecules
Fintan Walton:
Right, and in terms of the types of drugs you know obviously there is the area of biologics which include antibodies, but also there is a lot of other emerging areas that are new disruptive technologies that are trying to approach the area of oncology, is there anything are there any limitations if I was a biotech company watching this and I want to say well I want to approach Millennium , could you give that audience a little bit more insight into what you are prepared to tolerate in terms of breadth of a molecule?
Daniel Curran:
Yes, sure. So I think small molecules and biotherapeutics specifically antibody approaches have been where we focus most of our activity from a corporate development perspective because that fits very nicely with the capabilities the core capabilities we have internally. So we have quite a significant effort developing the small molecule inhibitors to a variety of targets so we're always interested in opportunities that may accentuate our pipeline or compliment our pipeline nicely, our recent example of Intellikine acquisition [PharmaDeals ID = 44537] was exactly for that purpose just sort of bringing complimentary assets that we felt fit quite nicely with some of the pipeline opportunities we are currently progressing and we also have quite a significant effort developing antibodies and in most particularly antibodies that are drug conjugates, so we have a collaboration with Seattle Genetics [PharmaDeals ID = 34339] on Brentuximab-Vedotin this is ADCETRIS which we hope to shortly get approval for in Europe and the rest of the world. We have follow on agents as we think about developing antibodies we really take a targeted approach looking for specific antibody drug conjugates that we like to prosecute, we have not been as interested in looking at immunotherapy approaches for instance, some of the novel therapeutic platforms RNAi we've done deals with companies, we had a done a deal with Alnylam several years back, but we are not specifically focused on those necessarily from corporate development perspective, of course data trumps all so we are continuing looking at the data and always revising our estimates of what is an important technology based on data.
Deal strategy- acquisition vs licensing transactions
Fintan Walton:
Sure. I suppose it comes on to the other issue, I mean obviously oncology is a very competitive space, it's obviously very active, in order for your company to be successful in attracting those opportunities in there are several things you need to do, there sometimes the solution is an acquisition you've already mentioned your efforts in that regards, so how important is an acquisition, I mean if I was a biotech company again shall I just approach you on the basis that you should acquire us or as often biotech companies do, I mean what is the trigger point to make an acquisition versus just taking a license?
Daniel Curran:
Yes, I think it's really on a case by case basis and it really depends on both appetite for the company to be acquired as well as our view of what the assets could be in our hands. So there is always has to be a very significant strategic element that's encompassing our thoughts about what type of transaction we would be willing to do. In the case of the Intellikine transaction it was quite clear that they have two very attractive assets compounds that we felt that in our hands could be maximally utilized and I think the Intellikine shareholders felt the same way that they were at a position where in order to really understand the full biological relevance of these targets they needed to seek a large corporate partnership and as the discussions evolved it just became clear that it was more likely for them that an acquisition would allow their shareholders to see the type of value return they wanted as well as provide us with kind of the means and the way regard to fully prosecute these assets and develop them across a variety of solid tumors. But I will say that most of the time we like to focus on licensing transactions and for a number of reasons, not just the financial reasons it's really when we look to bring in assets we are also looking at capabilities and the personal who have brought these molecules to the point where they are, so we are very much interested in accessing that talent pool basically and sort of the knowledge and the drive and the entrepreneurial fit is key for us as we think about different types of transactions. So if anything we like to hear that the parties would like to continue to move these assets or these programs forward sort of in conjunction with us and obviously in many cases they seek us for both the financial where we have to prosecute assets, but as well as sort of the global reach that we provide.
Daniel Curran's views on deal landscape, proof of concept approaches and cost of development
Fintan Walton:
Okay, I suppose the other thing is, again is, the price, what are people prepared to pay for licensing opportunities and there are some sort of indicators that in one hand deals are not as rich as they used to be, they are little bit more some people might describe a little bit more realistic, what's your view as a practitioner in this field?
Daniel Curran:
Yes I think it's, I think there is almost an inflection point between prior to sort of proof of concept or what we designate as proof of concept in oncology and pre-proof of concept type of approaches, so I think many of that so called pre-proof of concept assets I think have gone down in value because I think companies realize it is difficult to think about development path, and the time, and the length, and the cost of development.
Fintan Walton:
Still recently that's true.
Daniel Curran:
Absolutely, so I think we all end up in a position where not necessarily knowing what the asset may do, we recognize it is likely going to take us more time and cost more than we expected as we think about value in these assets. However I think those few assets that make it sort of over the hurdle and demonstrate the proof of concept then you know quite a different approach occurs and I think in many of these cases you are dealing with auction processes where the price goes quite high, so I think there is this dichotomy of depending on if you've reached proof of concept or not.
Fintan Walton:
So it's all round quality in the end?
Daniel Curran:
Pretty much, pretty much yes and sophisticated development as well, I mean we've continually now seen over the past say 18 months or so, may be two-years, more sophisticated thoughts and approaches into development planning and exactly how to get the proof of concept and with much more emphasis on using the surrogate markers or other prognostic indicators to target you to understand what the opportunity may be in a certain patient population for instance. So companies that can provide that type of data and that type of detail, and sort of a sophistication about how they develop it you know for us is also highly intriguing, because as we think about the market opportunities and as we think about how this whole commercial landscape is evolving it's fairly clear that we need to show an appropriate risk benefit ratio and to the extent we can actually put the right drug in the right patient that is gonna be highly beneficial I think both to the patients and then for us for the commercial proposition.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Well Dan Curran, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Daniel Curran:
My pleasure, thanks for having me.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Daniel Curran
Vice President
At the time of recording this PTV interview Daniel Curran serves as Vice President, Corporate Development at Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Daniel Curran joined Millennium Pharmaceuticals in 1999 as a Director of Business Development. Dan rejoined the corporate development group in 2006 as vice president and is responsible for strategic business transactions for Millennium. He has served as the primary negotiator of numerous transactions with major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies during his ten year tenure at Millennium, including the recent acquisition of Millennium by Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Prior to Millennium, Dan's previous professional experiences include a business development role in the Product Planning and Acquisition group at DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine and served as Chief Medical Resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Dan holds an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of Business, and a B.S. in Chemistry from King's College. A native of Pennsylvania, Dan currently resides in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Millennium Pharmaceuticals
Millennium Pharmaceuticals engages in the research, development, and commercialization of therapeutic products in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular, and inflammatory diseases. The company's products include VELCADE, a proteasome inhibitor for treating patients with multiple myeloma; and INTEGRILIN injection, a cardiovascular product. Its INTEGRILIN injection prevents aggregation of blood platelets and occlusion of the arteries supplying the heart muscle with oxygen to prevent the incidence of heart attack or death in patients with acute coronary syndrome, and for the treatment of patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention. The company's preclinical and clinical development drug candidates include MLN2704 for prostate cancer; MLN518 for acute myeloid leukemia; MLN8054 for solid tumor cancers; MLN2222 for reperfusion injury in patients undergoing cardiac surgeries; MLN1202 for rheumatoid arthritis multiple sclerosis; MLN3897 for chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis; MLN02 for Crohn's disease; and MLN3701 for chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. It has strategic alliances with Ortho Biotech Products L.P; Schering-Plough Ltd; GlaxoSmithKline plc; Aventis Pharma; and Schering Corporation. Millennium Pharmaceuticals was founded in 1993 and is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.