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Celgene Opens Translational Science Hub in Spain

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Celgene's new European hub for translational science in Spain will grow over three years to 30 Spanish and international scientists intent on bridging the gap between basic science and clinical research by bringing together professionals from industry, academia, and government, the biopharma company told GenomeWeb Daily News.

The new Celgene Institute of Translational Research Europe, or CITRE, occupies 750 square meters (about 8,100 square feet) divided into two floors within a building at the Cartuja93 science and technology park in Seville. The institute houses facilities for cell culture, cytometry, electronic microscopy, genomics, and proteomics.

Celgene said CITRE — the company's first center outside the US exclusively dedicated to R&D — will carry out research in cell signaling, cellular therapies, tumor biobanking, epigenetics and bioinformatics.

"The plan is to have the premier research talents, regardless of their origin, although it's clear that the Andalusian and Spanish levels in this area are extremely high, so they will certainly have a place in CITRE," a Celgene spokeswoman, Chelsey Flaherty, said Monday. "The focus of the research will be in areas where the company is actively engaged – hematology, oncology, inflammation – and importantly, a focus on new areas of medicine such as cellular therapies."

During its first three years, CITRE will undertake "around $60 million" in research. According to its annual report, publicly-traded Celgene spent about $795 million in research in 2009, down $136.4 million from $931.2 million in 2008, as company spending increases in clinical R&D and drug discovery could not totally offset a $303.1 million charge for a royalty obligation payment to Pfizer related to unapproved forms of azacitidine (Vidaza), the first FDA-approved drug for the treatment of myelodysplastic syndromes.

"As a result of our continued commitment to R&D, we expect 2010 R&D expense to increase approximately 20 percent versus 2009," David Gryska, Celgene's senior VP and CFO, said on a Jan. 28 conference call with analysts following the release of the firm's 2009 fourth-quarter and full-year results.

"We will continue to strategically invest in our R&D in 2010 as we seek to advance our very deep and promising product pipeline," Gryska said. During 2010, he added, "our development efforts will evaluate multiple compounds in more than 20 Pivotal and Phase III clinical trials," as well as "advancing 16 preclinical programs in 25 serious and debilitating diseases."

Flaherty said Celgene invests about 30 percent of its revenues in R&D.

"CITRE will give special priority to research in the area of rare diseases and the development of orphan drugs," Flaherty told GWDN. "All this is done with the intention of reducing the gap between basic research and clinical research to ensure the transfer of knowledge, and so that patients can benefit from scientific discoveries as soon as possible."

The institute will be run by Celgene managers, with input from a strategic management committee whose members include Alejandro Madrigal, research and scientific director of the Anthony Nolan Research Institute in London; Jesús San Miguel, head of the hematology department at the University Hospital of Salamanca and professor of hematology at the University of Salamanca; and Spanish stem cell research pioneer Bernat Soria Escoms of the Andalusian Center of Molecular Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

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