Allogene raises another $120M for off-the-shelf CAR-T programs

Piggy bank
Round adds to $300M in startup funding for Allogene (Pixabay/Quincemedia)

Allogene’s bustling first few months have continued with a $120 million private financing round that will help it advance its off-the-shelf CAR-T therapies for cancer.

The biotech—formed by Kite Pharma executives Arie Belldegrun and David Chang—came out of stealth mode in April armed with allogeneic CAR-T assets licensed from Cellectis by way of Pfizer, along with $300 million in startup financing and a five-year game plan to bring its first product to market.

The latest fundraising involved mainly first-time investors, said Allogene, and was led by Perceptive Advisors with support from “distinguished syndicate who understand the cell therapy landscape,” according to Chang.

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The additional resources will help the south San Francisco company meet its goal “to maintain our leadership in allogeneic CAR-T therapy and be the first company to develop and commercialize an allogeneic CAR-T product,” he said. The aim is to develop cell-based therapies for cancer that come from donor cells, rather than those harvested from the patient.

Pfizer licensed 16 CAR-T assets from Cellectis in 2014 for $80 million up front and another $185 million per product up for grabs, making the deal potentially worth as much as $2.9 billion.

The following year, Pfizer and Servier gained the rights to another CAR-T candidate, UCART19 for CD19-expressing hematological cancers, and this has now become Allogene's lead asset, with phase 2 trials due to start next year.

First-in-human results from a phase 1 trial of UCART19 were unveiled in March and showed that the CAR-T was able to achieve remission in five out of six children with relapsed/refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL).  

After licensing the programs to Allogene, Pfizer, which has minority shares in both Allogene and Cellectis, effectively took on a passive role in the CAR-T category.

Cowen & Co.—whose longtime analyst Eric Schmidt took over as chief financial officer at Allogene in June—acted as a placement agent for the financing.

Other investors included Deerfield Management, Fidelity Management and Research, Franklin Templeton Investments, Jennison Associates, Surveyor Capital, T. Rowe Price Associates, the University of California Office of the Chief Investment Officer, venBio Select Advisor and various large mutual funds.