Signals Blog


Welcome to your deal review for the month of May. Juno Therapeutics was active, forming a strategic research collaboration with Fate Therapeutics and acquiring Stage Cell Therapeutics. Adaptimmune decided it would take advantage of the ongoing initial public offering (IPO) window and went public to raise net proceeds of just under $180 million*. NeoStem secured a critical piece of funding for its late-stage melanoma program, receiving approximately $18 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) for the continued development of Eltrapuldencel-T for metastatic melanoma.

Fate Therapeutics (FATE) landed a game-changing deal with Juno Therapeutics (JUNO), which sent its stock soaring 60 per cent in a matter of days. The two companies have teamed up to identify and develop molecules that can be used to enhance the therapeutic profile of CAR-T cells. Given its expertise in cellular programming and interest in hematopoietic cells, FATE was a natural fit for a partner to help screen and identify molecules that have an impact on T cell characteristics. JUNO will be responsible for all commercialization activities over a four-year term. Under the terms of the strategic research collaboration and license agreement, JUNO will pay FATE $5 million upfront and purchase $8 million in FATE stock. For every molecule identified through the collaboration that JUNO incorporates into a product, FATE is eligible to receive up to $50 million in milestone payments and a low-single digit royalty on sales.

Like Kite Pharma (KITE), which has been actively pursuing deals to strengthen its capabilities, JUNO has been on the lookout for acquisitions to keep itself at the competitive edge. JUNO purchased privately held Stage Therapeutics Gmbh, based in Germany, which, at the time of acquisition, had a number of complementary technologies in the areas of T cell selection and activation, as well as manufacturing automation. In consideration for the company, JUNO paid $59 million upfront, in addition to providing 485,000 of JUNO stock. Stage Therapeutics will continue operating as a subsidiary of JUNO with the name Juno Therapeutics Gmbh.

NeoStem (NBS) secured $17.7 million of non-dilutive funding from CIRM to advance Eltrapuldencel-T through a pivotal study. The vaccine, which has been developed to target stage III recurrent or stage IV metastatic melanoma, combines a patient’s own tumour-initiating cells (“cancer stem cells”) and dendritic cells to mount a response against tumours. NBS recently enrolled the first patient in the Phase 3 INTUS study. Phase 2 results were impressive to say the least. Patients receiving the therapy showed a 72 per cent two-year survival, versus those in the control group who exhibited only 31 per cent survival at the same time point. The therapy has garnered considerable support from regulatory agencies. The FDA has given it both an Orphan Drug designation and Fast Track designation, in addition to providing a Special Protocol Assessment.

Adaptimmune (ADAP) successfully closed an IPO, raising $191 million. The proceeds will go towards building-out a pipeline of T cell receptors (TCRs), which are advantageous over standard CAR-T cells as they can target intracellular proteins as well as surface proteins. The company maintains a core expertise in leveraging mutagenesis of TCRs to improve affinity for oncogenic targets.

Market conditions continue to be favourable for IPOs, especially in the hot areas such as cell-based immunotherapy. We saw Cellectis (CLLS) go public in March, raising $228 million to fund its allogeneic CAR-T pipeline, and Aduro Biotech (ADRO) go public last month, raising $119 million to fund its genetically-engineered Listeria immune-oncology platform. The ADAP IPO goes to show that there is still a good deal of exuberance left in the investment community for immunotherapy platforms.

*All funds quoted are in U.S. dollars.

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Mark Curtis

Mark Curtis

Mark is a Business Development Analyst at the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), where he collaborates with the team to help evaluate the commercial potential of regenerative medicine and cell therapy technologies. He began his career at Princess Margaret Hospital studying cellular reprogramming of human skin cells. Following this project, he left the laboratory and took on a role with Bloom Burton & Co., a healthcare-focused investment dealer. While there he supported the advisory team in carrying out scientific diligence on early-stage biotechnology companies. Prior to joining CCRM he was a consultant to Stem Cell Therapeutics, a Toronto-based biotechnology company focused on developing therapeutics targeting cancer stem cells. Mark received a Master’s degree from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where he studied the directed differentiation of embryonic stem cells, and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, from Queen’s University. Follow Mark on Twitter @markallencurtis
Mark Curtis

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