Report: Novartis circles a deal to buy Gamida Cell in $600M deal

Israel's Globes is reporting that Novartis is pursuing a deal to buy out Israel's Gamida Cell for "hundreds of millions" of dollars upfront and hundreds of millions more in milestones, adding up to a total of about $600 million. The stem cell biotech has been working on a late-stage program for boosting the concentration of stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood to implant in adult leukemia and lymphoma patients.

Reuters followed up with a story saying that two big shareholders of Gamida Cell confirmed that a buyout deal is in the works, but also noted that a Novartis ($NVS) spokesperson declined to comment on the news. Clal Biotechnology--which has a finger in a number of Israeli biotech pies--said that an acquisition offer had arrived March 7, according to Reuters.

Gamida Cell had been touting plans to take the Phase II/III data on StemEx to the FDA, but was forced to announce last summer that regulators had stiff-armed the proposal, demanding a full Phase III study ahead of a decision. Teva ($TEVA) had been engaged in a joint venture on the program, but Globes reports that the big Israeli biopharma company dropped its interest in commercializing the therapy, leaving the commercial rights to the program up for grabs if a buyer came along.

Typically, leukemia and lymphoma patients look to bone marrow transplants to generate new blood cells. But often a matching donor needed for the bone marrow transplants can't be found, and stem cell transplants can be an alternative method for saving lives.

Teva is still listed as an investor, along with Big Biotech Amgen ($AMGN), Denali Ventures and Elbit Medical Technologies, which has a big stake in the company and reportedly confirmed that the offer involves a "significant immediate payment and additional future payments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars."

Gamida Cell has been exploring a possible IPO, which could be real or could be a useful gambit in any buyout discussions.

- here's the story from Globes
- here's the Reuters report