After its $12 billion buyout of Kite this year for its new class of immuno-oncology therapy, Gilead has made a much smaller bolt-on acquisition of Cell Design with an eye to the future of CAR-T.
The buy, costing $567 million all told (using biobucks and including the shares of Cell Design Labs already held by Kite), will go towards building the next-gen CAR-T programs to boost what Kite has already created.
Cell Design is mainly about the tech that centers on synNotch, which requires two antigens instead of just one, to activate the CAR cells, and so-called throttle technologies, which uses a small molecule as a switch to turn on and off the CAR-T.
It also has two quiet preclinical candidates for prostate cancer and liver cancer using the tech, as well as another very early candidate for multiple myeloma.
In a note to clients, analysts at Jefferies said: “We are positive on the demonstrated investment to CAR-T and believe this is a 'long-term' investment to build a cancer cell therapy platform over the next five years.”
The firm said the big picture is that Gilead is a building platform for long-term investment. “This is a relatively small, tuck-in acquisition to add technology to build on the Kite CAR-T platform. This is also not a huge surprise given Kite already had a collaboration with Cell Design from June 2016 based on Kite’s strategy to already build precision-controlled CAR products that can be turned ‘on or off’.”
It added that investors “should expect (and we predict) that Gilead will look to integrate ‘gene-editing’ either through partnership or acquisition as a next likely piece needed as well, which could fine tune and control the T-cells from all angles.” They pointed to the work Cellectis and Sangamo Therapeutics are doing in this space as examples.