Gilead boosts cellular therapy efforts with deal to buy Cell Design Labs

Gilead Sciences announced an agreement to acquire Cell Design Labs for up to approximately $567 million, including an upfront payment of around $175 million, gaining new technology platforms to boost its efforts in cellular therapy. The transaction builds on Gilead's recent $11.9-billion acquisition of Kite Pharma, and will give the former access to Cell Design Labs' synthetic gene expression system synNotch and Throttle, an "on switch" that modulates CAR T activity using small molecules.

According to Gilead, "the addition of these technologies to existing Kite research and development programmes could lead to the treatment of a broader range of haematological malignancies and solid tumours, and potentially offer improved selectivity and safety of future treatments." Gilead CEO John Milligan said "this acquisition demonstrates our deep commitment to continuing to invest in future innovation in the field of cellular therapy, both internally and externally."

In October, the FDA approved Gilead's CAR-T therapy Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) for certain patients with large B-cell lymphoma. The therapy, which the company gained via the purchase of Kite, is the first CAR-T therapy to be approved in the US for adults with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma after two or more lines of systemic treatment, including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) not otherwise specified, primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma, high-grade B-cell lymphoma and DLBCL arising from follicular lymphoma.

FirstWord reports in this therapy area - KOL Insight CAR-T Therapy in Haematological Malignancy: Early Stage Outlook: Find out how KOLs expect the market to evolve, which pipeline treatments are most promising, and which clinical trials will shape treatment decisions. Learn more.

Under the deal to buy Cell Design Labs, Gilead will acquire all of the outstanding shares of the drugmaker, which includes the approximately 12.2 percent of shares that are currently held by Kite. As well as the upfront sum, the agreement includes additional payments of up to $322 million linked to development and approval milestones. The acquisition is expected to "close shortly."

Gilead noted that along with its technology platforms, Cell Design Labs is developing a number of preclinical product candidates, including therapies for prostate cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma that use the synNotch technology. The company's lead preclinical candidate targets multiple myeloma.

For related analysis, read ViewPoints: And so it begins- Gilead's CAR-T approval sets off the cell therapy race.

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