Cephalon has hit the acquisition trail again and is buying cancer specialist Gemin X Pharmaceuticals for $225 million in cash.

Under the terms of the agreement, stockholders in the privately-held firm could also pocket $300 million upon the achievement of certain regulatory and sales milestones, but no royalties. What attracted Cephalon to Gemin X is its pipeline of targeted cancer therapeutics based on reinitiating programmed forms of cell death, including apoptotic and autophagic cell death, based on the inhibition of metabolism in cancerous cells.

Its lead product candidate, obatoclax, is a pan Bcl-2 inhibitor and is currently completing a Phase IIb trial in more than 160 patients with extensive stage small cell lung cancer (ES-SCLC). The trial is evaluating the safety and efficacy of obatoclax as a first-line treatment in combination with standard chemotherapy and full data have been submitted for presentation at upcoming scientific meetings.

That Cephalon has come in with a bid suggests that the data are promising and chief executive Kevin Buchi said he is "particularly excited" about obatoclax, which if successful "has the potential to significantly benefit patients suffering from SCLC - a devastating disease for which current treatments are limited and additional therapies are desperately needed". His counterpart at Gemin X, Peter Dolan (formerly CEO at Bristol-Myers Squibb), also spoke of the promise offered by obatoclax for ES-SCLC, "a condition for which there has been no change in the standard of care for 25 years".

Last month, Cephalon bagged an option to purchase all of Alba Therapeutics Corp's assets relating to larazotide, which is in Phase IIb clinical trial for the treatment of coeliac disease, for $15 million. In October, it bought BioAssets Development Corp and its tumour necrosis factor inhibitor for the treatment of sciatica, for $42.5 million.