Sanofi inks $358M Kiadis takeover to acquire NK-cell platform

Sanofi has struck a deal to buy Kiadis for €308 million ($358 million). The takeover will give Sanofi full control of an off-the-shelf natural killer (NK) cell platform it is already using to try to enhance its multiple myeloma drug Sarclisa.

In July, Sanofi provided an early indication that Kiadis’ pivot to NK cells may pay off by paying €17.5 million upfront to gain the global rights to preclinical prospect K-NK004. Kiadis makes K-NK004 by modifying NK cells to prevent expression of CD38. Giving K-NK004 in combination with Sarclisa, a rival to Johnson & Johnson’s Darzalex, could prevent the NK-cell depletion that limits the efficacy of anti-CD38 antibodies.

Now, Sanofi has struck a deal to buy Kiadis outright. Sanofi has offered €5.45 a share for Kiadis. The biotech last traded at that level more than one year ago, back when it was still trying to win conditional approval for T-cell immunotherapy ATIR101 in Europe while running a phase 3 trial of the transplantation drug to gather data for full authorization.

Kiadis’ plans for ATIR101 blew up in the space of weeks last year, when it braced investors for the regulatory rejection of the asset and then pulled the plug on the phase 3 in anticipation of lackluster efficacy data. In response, Kiadis shifted its attention to a NK cell platform it acquired in an all-stock takeover of CytoSen Therapeutics. Kiadis bought CytoSen for 1.5 million newly issued shares, plus options, back when its stock traded above €7.

In landing a €308 million bid from Sanofi, Kiadis has effectively flipped the CytoSen assets at a sizable profit. Sanofi made the offer in the belief the NK cell platform can support its aspirations to grow in immuno-oncology.   

“We believe the Kiadis ‘off the shelf’ K-NK cell technology platform will have broad application against liquid and solid tumors, and create synergies with Sanofi’s emerging immuno-oncology pipeline, providing opportunities for us to pursue potential best-in-disease approaches,” John Reed, global head of R&D at Sanofi, said in a statement.

Kiadis’ pipeline is led by K-NK002, a NK-cell therapy the biotech is assessing in a phase 2 trial as a way to stop post-transplant relapse in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes. 

K-NK002 is being followed down the pipeline by K-NK003, NK cells that Kiadis is testing in relapsed or refractory AML patients in phase 1, and a post-exposure, preemptive COVID-19 therapy that is set to enter phase 1/2a. Sanofi plans to accelerate the development programs by providing Kiadis with additional resources and capabilities. 

In selling the deal to shareholders, Kiadis CEO Arthur Lahr said Sanofi’s offer is fair, given the capital needed to execute his plan and the risks of drug development. Kiadis ended June with €19.8 million in cash and equivalents before going in to secure €17.5 million from Sanofi the following month.

Shares in Kiadis jumped 235%, rising to close to Sanofi’s offer price, following news of the takeover.