Novartis circles back with new terms for a stem cell biotech buyout--report

Novartis' on-again, off-again deal to buy out Israeli stem cell therapy developer Gamida Cell is reportedly back on again--though the pharma giant ($NVS) has apparently renegotiated the old $600 million pact to include a smaller upfront buy-in and one of its favored option agreements.

The action here is being signaled by Elbit Medical and Clal Biotechnology, which jointly own Jerusalem-based Gamida Cell along with a consortium that includes the big Israeli company Teva ($TEVA) and Amgen ($AMGN). Haaretz reported last spring that Novartis backed out of the $600 million buyout deal--which included $170 million upfront--while Globes indicated that Novartis' board refused to sanction the acquisition terms. 

Now Globes is reporting that the two principals are selling 5% of the company to Novartis, which will have an option to buy the rest depending on the outcome of its clinical research efforts. Altogether, Novartis could pay "several hundred million dollars," reports Globes.

There's no certainty, though, that Novartis will follow through. Over the years Novartis has struck a number of option deals to buy companies, only to walk away later without following up on the pact.

Gamida Cell is primarily known for two cancer therapies: StemEx--a package of stem cells extracted from cord blood and intended for leukemia and lymphoma patients who can't arrange a matching bone marrow transplant from a family member--and NiCord. Last year the company's plan to seek an early approval of StemEx based on a Phase II/III single-arm study was snubbed by the FDA, which demanded a full late-stage study. By that time Teva had already decided to pull the plug on its work related to StemEx and Gamida Cell was left searching for a new Big Pharma collaborator to complete the work.

- here's the story from Globes