Gilead goes full throttle on CAR-Ts with $567m acquisition
Gilead and subsidiary Kite have struck a deal to buy Cell Design Labs for up to $567 million to create next-generation therapies targeting solid tumours.
Competitors in the CAR-T space are all looking at how to expand the drugs’ reach into solid tumours, which would open up the commercial potential of the technology enormously – however this remains a sizeable technical challenge.
Based in Santa Monica, California, Gilead already has a 12% stake in Cell Design Labs following its acquisition of Kite Pharma in October for almost $12 billion.
Gilead already has a chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy approved in the US – Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) was developed by Kite and approved by the FDA in large B-cell lymphoma shortly after the Kite acquisition.
Data from Yescarta presented at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference over the weekend showed that 56% of the 108 patients with large B-cell lymphoma treated with the therapy lived for a year or more.
Novartis was first to market with its rival CAR-T, Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), approved by the FDA in August in an advanced and aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
CAR-T therapies are made by harvesting a patient’s own T-cells, genetically modifying them so that they attack cancer, and then injecting them back into the patient’s body.
With the acquisition Gilead hopes to accelerate development of a new generation of new CAR-Ts, which could be used to attack solid tumours.
So far, pharma companies have only been able to develop CAR-Ts that are effective against blood cancers.
Pharma companies also want to improve the safety profile of CAR-Ts – they are associated with severe side effects such as cytokine release syndrome where the immune system begins to attack a patient’s own body.
CDL is a pre-clinical stage company focused on custom cell engineering, developing two technology platforms.
The first, synNotch, is a synthetic gene expression system that responds to external cues that can be deployed to engineer CAR-T cells requiring two antigens for activation.
CDL is also working on Throttle, an ‘on switch’ that modulates CAR-T activity using small molecules.
Gilead said it will buy all of the outstanding shares in CDL, including Kite’s stake for $175 million, plus milestone payments of up to $322 million upon achievement of development and approval milestones.
The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, and is expected to close shortly.
Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.