Juno snaps up an antibody biotech amid CAR-T horse race

Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO), at work on immune system-harnessing cancer treatments, bought up a small Massachusetts biotech to further flesh out its arsenal of technologies, picking up a new discovery platform as it races toward late-stage trials.

Juno CEO Hans Bishop

The Seattle-headquartered biotech is trading $21 million in cash and another roughly $23 million in stock for X-Body, a Waltham, MA, outfit devoted to crafting fully human antibodies for a wide range of targets. Juno, whose work centers on cell therapies, plans to use the 9-person company's technology to better target its cancer treatments, tapping X-Body's discovery engine to help its candidates bind to their intended antigens.

Juno's top prospects are so-called CAR-T treatments, crafted by removing a patients' own T cells and rewiring them to home in on cancers. Each CAR-T candidate is tailored to seek out a specific cancer-related antigen, and bringing in X-Body's expertise will help Juno further refine its targeting process, CEO Hans Bishop said.

The biotech, in a CAR-T race with Novartis ($NVS), Kite Pharma ($KITE) and others, has been steadily buying up complementary assets since pulling off a $265 million IPO last year.

In May, Juno spent roughly $80 million in cash and stock to acquire Stage Cell Therapeutics, a German company devoted to the engineering and manufacturing of cell therapies. Months before, Juno leased a manufacturing facility in its native Washington, vertically integrating the production process as it prepares to push 10 of its cell therapies into clinical trials this year.

And Juno has been just as busy on the partnering front, last month reaching out to the gene editing innovators at Editas Medicine in a deal worth up to $737 million that will see the pair collaborating on third-generation CAR-T candidates. Weeks before, Juno partnered up with Fate Therapeutics ($FATE) in a four-year research collaboration combining the former's T cell technology with the latter's small-molecule R&D platform.

- read the statement

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