Former Kite execs Arie Belldegrun and David Chang splashed back onto the scene last month with a new startup, an array of off-the-shelf CAR-T assets and $300 million to bankroll it all. Now, Stat reports, Belldegrun is looking to sign on Cowen analyst Eric Schmidt as chief financial officer at his new CAR-T outfit, Allogene Therapeutics.
The veteran analyst joined Cowen in 1998 and covers more than 20 biotech stocks. He confirmed with Stat that he is considering an offer from Allogene, and that he has told his bosses at Cowen he's entertaining the idea. But he hasn't yet made a decision, Stat reported.
At Kite, Belldegrun and Chang ushered the first CAR-T treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma to an early FDA nod, eventually selling off the company to Gilead for nearly $12 billion. But making history wasn't enough for the duo, who launched Allogene in April with a mission to advance a stable of allogenic, or off-the-shelf, CAR-T candidates licensed from Pfizer.
Kite/Gilead's Yescarta and Novartis' Kymriah both involve taking a patient's T cells, modifying them to better target and attack cancer cells, then reinfusing them back into the patient. Because the treatments use a patient's own cells, manufacturing can be complex and time-consuming. Allogene's approach uses donor T cells that can be stored and then used "off the shelf," reducing this wait time.
Pfizer got its hands on 16 CAR-T assets from Cellectis in 2014, handing over $80 million up front for the global rights. But with $185 million on the line per product, the deal would have been worth as much as $2.9 billion. Now, Allogene is on the hook for those milestones and royalties for each commercialized product.
A year later, Pfizer and Servier picked up the rights to another candidate, UCART19, an allogeneic CAR-T therapy being developed for CD19-expressing hematological malignancies. UCART19 has now become Allogene's lead asset, with phase 2 studies slated to kick off in 2019.
“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, and ultimately to reach patients in need more quickly," said Robert Abraham, Pfizer SVP and head of oncology R&D, at Allogene's launch.