AbbVie continues to bolster its immunology portfolio beyond Humira, announcing on Thursday its acquisition of early-stage biotech Celsius Therapeutics for $250 million in cash. This move aims to strengthen AbbVie’s longer-term prospects in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The Chicago-area pharma giant, set for a CEO transition on Monday, is acquiring Cambridge, MA-based Celsius Therapeutics and its lead asset, CEL383. This potential first-in-class anti-TREM1 antibody for IBD treatment has already completed a Phase 1 clinical study in healthy volunteers.

Celsius, founded in 2018, has maintained a relatively low profile over the years. The startup was launched with $65 million from investors including Third Rock Ventures, Google’s GV, and Casdin Capital, later securing an additional $83 million Series B in 2022. Among its co-founders are computational biologist Aviv Regev, now leading research and early development at Genentech, and Christoph Lengauer. Prior to the acquisition, Celsius was valued at $120 million, according to venture data firm PitchBook.

AbbVie is betting on CEL383 as a potential first-in-class anti-TREM1 antibody for IBD, noting that the TREM1 gene “acts as an amplifier of inflammation.” This acquisition follows AbbVie’s earlier purchase of Landos Biopharma and its Phase 2 IBD drug NX-13 for $137.5 million upfront, further demonstrating the company’s commitment to expanding its IBD pipeline.

AbbVie’s business development strategy in the immunology space has largely focused on partnerships and licensing deals this year. Notable agreements include a $150 million upfront payment for FutureGen Biopharma’s TL1A antibody FG-M701, $48 million upfront for OSE Immunotherapeutics’ monoclonal antibody OSE-230, and $64 million upfront for work on oncology and immunology biologics from Tentarix Biotherapeutics.

The Celsius acquisition represents a shift towards outright purchases of promising early-stage companies with novel mechanisms of action. As AbbVie continues to navigate the post-Humira landscape, the addition of Celsius and its anti-TREM1 antibody program demonstrates the company’s commitment to maintaining its leadership in immunology and IBD treatment.

Read the press release

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