Novartis-backed Gamida Cell gains $40M for phase 3 work

Novartis remains a big backer of Gamida Cell, despite passing on a buyout deal in the past.

Gamida Cell has upped its financing by $40 million in its latest funding round as it preps for final work on a late-stage stem cell blood cancer therapy.

The Jerusalem-based Gamida Cell has bolstered its financing to prop up the ongoing phase 3 trial of its FDA Breakthrough product NiCord, which is designed to enable bone marrow transplantation.

Its lead candidate is derived from umbilical cord blood, which is processed to create a cell graft suitable for patients who lack a bone marrow donor, and the biotech is now looking to and beyond a potential approval.

The round was led by new investor Shavit Capital, with others including new investors VMS Investment Group and Israel Biotech Fund, as well as existing investor and major shareholder, Novartis.

Novartis has in fact been a long-term partner in the biotech, paying out $35 million in 2014 for a 15% stake in Gamida Cell, which it then upped again a year later.

Novartis was in talks to buy Gamida Cell in a deal worth $600 million on two separate occasions, with the most recent negotiations, back in 2015, leading to Novartis picking up an option to buy Gamida Cell for $165 million upfront and $435 million in milestones by 2016. The Swiss Big Pharma in the end turned down the option, but clearly retains a financial, and therapeutic, interest in Gamida Cell.

The biotech said of its latest cash boost that it plans to complete NiCord’s late-stage test and “prepare for product commercialization by expanding its in-house manufacturing capacity, and the Company's presence in the U.S., as well as continuing to develop additional pipeline products such as CordIn for rare genetic diseases and NK cells as a treatment for cancer.”

Gamida Cell's chair, Julian Adams, Ph.D., said, “The financing announced today provides important support for Gamida Cell's innovative product pipeline, which has the potential to change the clinical application of cell based therapies. We are excited to take Gamida Cell to the next step towards becoming a commercial global company based on innovative oncology therapy.”