SUMMIT, NJ (

TheStreet

) -- Forget cancer,

Celgene

(CELG) - Get Report

is now a hepatitis C drug stock with the acquisition of privately held

Avila Therapeutics

.

Celgene announced the Avila acquisition Thursday and focused more on the latter company's early-stage cancer drug AVL-292, a Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk) inhibitor currently in a phase I trial.

Investors these days, however, are obsessed with anything related to hepatitis C so they may be more interested in what Celgene plans for Avila's two hepatitis C protease inhibitors, both in preclinical development.

Celgene is paying $350 million in cash to acquire Avila, plus up to $195 million for milestones contingent upon the development and regulatory approval of AVL-292. Avila investors are also eligible for up $380 million in potential milestone payments tied to the company's other pipeline drugs.

Celgene said the Avila transaction will be neutral to 2012 adjusted earnings, which the company forecasts to reach a range of $4.70 per share to $4.80 per share -- a 25% increase over 2011 earnings.

Interest in BTK inhibitors as a potential new class of drugs for the treatment of various lymphoma, or blood cancers, is high. Recently,

Pharmacyclics

(PCYC)

licensed its BTK inhibitor

to

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

.

Celgene also announced fourth-quarter results, which were notable mainly for lower-than-expected sales of the multiple myeloma drug Revlimid.

Revlimid worldwide sales during the fourth quarter totaled $885 million, shy of the $874 million consensus estimate. While a revenue miss is never a good thing, investors are more likely to be focused on the upcoming European regulatory decision to expand Revlimid's use as a treatment for first-line multiple myeloma.

Celgene reiterated Thursday the 2012 financial guidance it provided earlier this month at an investor conference. The company expects adjusted earnings in the range of $4.70 per share to $4.80 per share on total revenue of $5.4 billion to $5.6 billion.

Celgene shares were up 19 cents to $73.98 in early Thursday trading.

--Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

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Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback;

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