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Gilead makes $567m strategic acquisition for next-gen CAR-T

Published on 08/12/17 at 10:41am

It’s only four months since Gilead completed its buy-out of Kite Pharma for $11.9 billion, but it’s already moving quickly to establish bolt-on technology to take its CAR-T therapy forward.

The first move in this process has been to acquire Cell Design Labs in a deal worth up to $567 million. The technology that Gilead will acquire could see it use Cell Design’s platforms to engineer CAR-T therapy to make currently elusive targets more viable, such as in other forms of cancer.

Currently, the main targets in CAR-T are blood cancers but, moving forward, with more precision this could be broadened to include treatments for prostate or lung cancer – without damaging the function of these organs.

Brian Atwood, President and CEO of Cell Design Labs, said, “Bringing our robust technology platforms under the Gilead umbrella, with its outstanding research and development capabilities and commitment to innovation, provides an exciting path forward for the development of the next generation of living therapies for patients with cancer.”

Described simply, Cell Design tweaks the abilities of T cells, allowing them to attack specific target cells. The biotech has also been working on a feature allowing them to turn up or down the ability of T cells to attack target cells.

“We have been working with Cell Design Labs for almost 18 months, and truly appreciate the ground-breaking nature of their technology platforms,” commented David D. Chang, Worldwide Head of Research and Development and Chief Medical Officer at Kite. “We’ve already integrated Throttle Switch into our CAR-T pipeline and look forward to exploring the full depth and breadth of the technologies of Gilead, Kite and Cell Design Labs to expand the cell therapy toolbox.”

The financials of the deal work out at an upfront payment of $175 million, with $322 million locked into further milestones. Prior to this, Cell Design had been running on the $34.4 million that investors had pumped into the biotech – one of which included Kite.

Beyond cancer, there is a hope that being able to engineer T cells may seem them be able turned against HIV or used to aid autoimmune diseases.

Ben Hargreaves

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