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Gilead seals $3bn deal, hoping for off-the-shelf CAR-T

Published on 23/02/18 at 09:21am

The expense and laborious process involved in bringing CAR-T therapies to patients was used a key reason for the high cost of the treatments; now, the next step in the field is to find a way to speed up this process, whoever gets there first will have a big advantage.

With this in mind, Gilead has signed a deal with Sangamo Therapeutics that could be worth over $3 billion for the latter company, in a bid to strengthen its acquisition of Kite to gain a position on the market.

Gilead is essentially licensing the Sangamo’s zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) in attempt to develop a means of producing a CAR-T therapy which would not require manufacturing the therapy via utilising cells from the patient.

For such a prospect, Gilead has put up $150 million directly to begin the collaboration and has agreed to pay up to $3.01 billion in milestone payments, based on 10 or more products developed through Sangamo’s technology.

“The emergence of gene editing as a tool to edit immune cells holds promise in the development of therapies with potentially improved safety, efficacy and efficiency,” said John F. Milligan, Gilead’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We believe Sangamo’s zinc finger nucleases provide the optimal gene editing platform, and we look forward to working with Sangamo to accelerate our efforts to develop next-generation autologous cell therapies, as well as allogeneic treatments that can be accessed more conveniently in the hospital setting for people living with cancer.”

Gilead had made it known it was looking for a gene editing partner and settling on Sangamo has given the latter company a big boost, given that it suggests it may be ahead of the pack and its shares have risen accordingly, up 14.4%.

Novartis, Gilead’s CAR-T rival, has already been working at bringing gene editing into the space for a number of years, having partnered with both Intellia and Caribou Biosciences in 2015. The same year, Juno Therapeutics partnered with Editas Medicine, as both CAR-T frontrunners looked to CRISPR, instead of ZFN, to develop next-gen therapies.

“This collaboration between Kite and Sangamo brings together two leading platforms to develop best-in-class cell therapies in oncology,” said Sandy Macrae, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sangamo. “We are excited by Kite’s commitment to driving innovation in this field and look forward to working together to realize the full promise of cell therapy in treating cancer.”

Ben Hargreaves

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