Several biotech firms developing investigational CAR T therapies for cancer, including Bluebird Bio, Cellectis, Juno Therapeutics and Kite Pharma, are considered takeover targets for larger drugmakers, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.
"Big pharma companies such as Pfizer, Merck, Roche and AstraZeneca are closely watching the firms developing CAR T and getting ready to jump on them," stated Dimo Dimov, a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Bath.
More than $40 billion has been spent or committed to acquisitions involving biotech companies this year, including Alexion Pharmaceuticals' $8.4-billion agreement to purchase Synageva BioPharma.
At present, most drugmakers have been content to partner with biotech firms developing CAR T therapies, as typified by AstraZeneca's collaboration with Juno, Amgen's partnership with Kite and GlaxoSmithKline's deal with Adaptimmune, while Pfizer has amassed an 8-percent stake in Cellectis.
"Everyone is standing on the sideline, to see if there are advances in scalability," explained Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Fabian Wenner, continuing "before that is visible, everyone is hesitant to invest much more because you could lose billions."
The first CAR T therapy to reach the market could be developed by Novartis, which hopes to submit its experimental treatment to regulators next year for the treatment of leukaemia.