Pfizer will contribute its allogeneic CAR T-cell therapy immuno-oncology portfolio, including UCART19, to Allogene Therapeutics under a deal to develop treatments for cancer, the companies announced Tuesday. As part of the agreement, Pfizer will hold a 25-percent ownership stake in Allogene.
The companies noted that through the deal, Pfizer will contribute 16 preclinical CAR T-cell assets licensed from Cellectis and Servier, in addition to UCART19, which is licensed from Servier. UCART19 is being developed for the treatment of CD19-expressing haematological malignancies, with an initial focus on acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
"We believe that under the strong scientific, clinical development and regulatory expertise of Allogene's leadership team, the portfolio of CAR T assets contributed by Pfizer will be well-positioned to rapidly advance into potential innovative new therapies," remarked Robert Abraham, group head of oncology R&D at Pfizer.
Allogene, which has been funded via a $300 million Series A financing, will have exclusive rights to develop and commercialise UCART19 in the US, while Servier will retain exclusive rights for all other countries. The companies plan to start Phase II studies of UCART19 in 2019.
Allogene will be led by Arie Belldegrun and David Chang, who held the respective positions of CEO and chief medical officer at Kite Pharma, before its $11.9-billion sale to Gilead Sciences last year. Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel), which was developed by Kite Pharma, gained FDA approval in 2017 for certain patients with large B-cell lymphoma, making it the second CAR-T therapy authorised in the US, following clearance of Novartis' Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) for certain paediatric and young adult patients with ALL.
Both Yescarta and Kymriah are created by re-engineering patients' own T-cells, while Allogene will focus on "off the shelf" therapies. "We always have been saying that allogeneic has to happen, but it was not ready for prime time," remarked Chang, noting that too many patients will die while waiting for their cells to be re-engineered. Chang suggested that allogeneic treatments will also be key for targeting solid tumours.
For further analysis, read ViewPoints: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss - CAR-T veterans target 'off the shelf' therapies.
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