Welcome to your Cell Therapy Deal Review for the month of November. Astellas failed to achieve the majority share it needed to push through a takeover of Ocata Therapeutics valued at $379 million. ImmunoCellular Therapeutics announced a research agreement with MD Anderson Cancer Center to advance a Stem-to-T-Cell Program. Servier exercised its option for exclusive, worldwide rights to Cellectis’ UCART19 product.
In November it was announced that Ocata’s (OCAT) Board had agreed on a deal with Astellas that would see the latter buy Ocata for $379 million. Shareholders of Ocata questioned whether the valuation fairly reflected the company’s clinical program in ophthalmology and other preclinical assets in development and set out to block the deal as the end of the initial tender period approached. In order for the deal to be executed, shareholders had to tender just over 50 percent of shares. According to Seeking Alpha, only a little more than 36 percent of shares were put forward. As a result, Astellas has extended the period within which shareholders can tender shares until January 21st, 2016.
ImmunoCellular Therapeutics (IMUC) is pursuing a unique approach to T cell receptor (TCR) therapy wherein stem cells, rather than T cells, are genetically engineered before being re-infused into patients. In certain instances the persistence of T cell response has hampered efficacy. By engineering stem cells with a specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), a prolonged T cell response can be formed against a cancer target. The company announced a sponsored research agreement with Dr. Cassian Yee at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Yee, an expert in the identification and isolation of cytotoxic T cells, will find T cells targeted to specific cancer types, sequence their TCRs, and then engineer hematopoietic stem cells to express those TCRs to generate candidates for preclinical development. Recently formed Nohla Therapeutics is taking a similar approach with progenitor CAR cells.
Pfizer and Servier will jointly develop and commercialize Cellectis’ (CLLS) UCART19 product, a universal CAR T product poised to enter the clinic for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Servier exercised its option to acquire exclusive, worldwide rights to the technology, early, for an upfront payment of $38.2 million and milestone payments of approximately $300 million to Cellectis. Under the terms of Servier’s agreement with Pfizer, Pfizer will receive rights to commercialize the product in the United States, while Servier will retain rights to the remainder of countries. Financial terms to the Pfizer/Servier deal were not disclosed.
Lion Biotechnologies (LION) announced a deal with leading contract cell manufacturer WuXi AppTech to boost its tumour infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) manufacturing capacity. The two-year contract will provide LION new manufacturing capability in the first half of 2016 at WuXi’s Philadelphia site.
This is the second time in 2015 we have seen a Japanese company target a regenerative medicine company in the United States. Fujifilm set out to acquire Cellular Dynamics International in March, with success. Japanese companies are aggressively pursuing regenerative medicine assets, and it will come as no surprise if this trend continues into 2016 and beyond.
All figures quoted are in U.S. dollars.