Celgene Corp is paying $710 million upfront to acquire a late-stage product for Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal disorders from Irish company Nogra Pharma.

The compound in question is GED-0301, an oral antisense DNA oligonucleotide targeting Smad7 mRNA and a Phase II trial of three doses of the candidate in 166 patients with Crohn's has been completed. Based upon these results, Celgene plans to initiate Phase III studies before the end of 2014.

Cashwise, aside from the whopping upfront fee, privately-held Nogra could bank an extra $815 million if regulatory and development goals are met and if sales ever reach $4 billion, Nogra would be entitled to a maximum of $1.05 billion in other milestones.

Scott Smith, Celgene's head of inflammation and immunology, said GED-0301 is "a potentially transformative therapy that demonstrated striking clinical activity" in the aforementioned Phase II trial. He added that "it strengthens our expanding pipeline of novel therapies intended to address significant unmet medical need in immune-mediated diseases".

Healthy sales rise

The deal was announced after Celgene unveiled its financials for the first quarter whoch showed that revenues climbed 18% to $1.73 billion. Net profit fell however, down to $280 million compared to $385 million last year, due to rising R&D and launch costs.

Sales growth was driven by the multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) drug Revlimid (lenalidomide), which generated $1.14 billion, up 14%. The breast cancer drug Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel) leapt 51% to $185 million, helped by launches for pancreatic cancers, while Celgene's new MM drug Pomalyst/Imnovid (pomalidomide) brought in $136 million.