Cell Medica buys Delenex for tech to power next-gen CAR collaboration with Baylor


EuroBiotech logoCell Medica has bought Delenex, a Swiss biotech that spun out of ESBATech as part of its $589 million (€531 million) takeover by Novartis’ ($NVS) Alcon. The deal gives Cell Medica single-chain variable fragment (scFv) technology that will serve as the targeting system for the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapies it is codeveloping with Baylor College of Medicine.

London-based Cell Medica has paid an undisclosed fee to gain access to the scFv technology. When Delenex spun out of ESBATech in 2009 and raised CHF 13.5 million the following year, it had aspirations to follow in the footsteps of AbbVie’s ($ABBV) Humira and use its scFV fragment platform to create standalone therapeutics. Now, with this plan having been derailed by a midphase failure, Cell Medica has swooped in with its own ideas about how to use the scFv fragment platform.

With scFv fragments forming the front, cancer-antigen-recognizing section of CAR molecules, Cell Medica thinks the platform will prove useful to its collaboration with Baylor. "We will be able to work with new cancer antigens,” Cell Medica CEO Gregg Sando told FierceBiotech. “We'll be able to very quickly and very efficiently develop scFvs for new cancer antigens. That will be a very important part of our development program for CAR products going forward with Baylor.”

The Baylor collaboration sees Cell Medica team up with the Houston, TX-based health science center to work on CARs capable of treating solid tumors. Through the agreement, Cell Medica has gained an exclusive license to Baylor cell and gene technologies, plus an option to pick up products that emerge from its partner’s labs. The takeover of Delenex is part of a concerted effort to boost the effectiveness of the collaboration through the use of additional technologies.

“We knew the minute that we were getting involved with Baylor, and this goes back probably six months, that we wanted not only to have the Baylor collaboration, but also to go out and really beef up that collaboration by bringing in technologies that would help us develop products very efficiently with Baylor,” Sando said. “This is one example of what we're doing in terms of bringing in what we call enabling technologies.”

Cell Medica has also gained access to the team behind Delenex’s platform. While Delenex’s clinical staff and management are parting ways with the company, the 9-person technical team is staying on and becoming a Swiss outpost of Cell Medica.

- read the release

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