Sanofi to acquire Kiadis and NK cell tech for $353 million

Sanofi is to acquire Kiadis, a biotech specialising in therapies based around ‘off the shelf’ natural killer (NK) cells, for 308 million euros ($353 million).

The French pharma is buying Kiadis for 5.45 euros per share in cash, an offer price representing a premium of 272% over the biotech’s closing price on Friday evening on Amsterdam’s Euronext market.

It’s a substantial price to pay for the small pharma. Although the company’s share price has been notoriously volatile, the NK-cell technology is still largely unproven in clinic.

Allogeneic, or ‘off the shelf’, cell therapies are derived from banks of cells, and potentially offer the therapeutic benefits seen with autologous cell therapies derived from a patient’s own bodies but without the complex, costly and lengthy manufacturing process.

Autologous CAR-T cancer therapies based on T-cells are already on the market from Novartis and Gilead, but have had a slow start in terms of sales as health systems struggled to come to terms with their high price and the logistics of manufacturing them and delivering them to patients.

While Kiadis’ technology is mainly intended for cancer, the biotech announced plans in August to develop a NK-cell therapy for COVID-19, sending its shares soaring before they fell back due to profit-taking.

This followed a separate deal with Sanofi in July, where the pharma licensed Kiadis’ pre-clinical drug K-NK004 for multiple myeloma.

Kiadis has K-NK002 in phase 2 development to prevent patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes from relapsing after transplant.

Also in phase 1 development is K-NK003, for patients with relapsed or refractory AML.

Kiadis is drawing up plans to begin a phase 1/2a clinical trial of KNK-ID-101, its COVID-19 therapy in high risk patients, with funding from the French government.

Acquiring Kiadis outright makes sense for Sanofi, which already has a foothold in cancer immunotherapy thanks to its Libtayo (cemiplimab), developed in partnership with Regeneron and already approved in a form of skin cancer.

Shareholders in Kiadis will likely be pleased with the substantial premium agreed and the deal has the unanimous support of its board.

Funds managed by Life Sciences Partners have committed to support the offer, accounting for 18.3% of shares in the Netherlands-based biotech.

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