Gilead’s new Kite Subsidiary To Buy CAR-T Cell Therapy Company Cell Design Labs

Acquisition further strengthens Gilead/Kite’s position in the cell therapy market.

Just a few months after acquiring Kite Pharma for $11.9 billion, Gilead Sciences announced that it has agreed to purchase another cell therapy company - Cell Design Labs – for as much as $567 million.

With the acquisition of Kite Pharma, Gilead was looking to apply its biologics expertise and resources to the commercialization of Kite’s chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell technology for the development of oncology therapeutics. This latest purchase of Cell Design Labs is intended to further expand the company’s position in CAR-T and other cellular therapies. Cell Design brings new technology platforms that will allow the companies, when joined, to speed up the development of cell therapy products, and also expands Gilead’s range of disease targets.

Cell Design Labs, based in California, was founded to commercialize technology developed by Wendell Lim, Professor and Chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

The company has proprietary molecular modules targeting cancer as well as other diseases, and focuses on the development of immunotherapies, including two technology platforms: Throttle™, an “on switch” designed to modulate CAR T-cell activity using small molecules and synNotch™, a synthetic gene expression system that responds to external stimuli and can be used to engineer CAR-T cells that require dual antigen recognition for activation. The company has several preclinical candidates, including treatments for multiple myeloma, prostate cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Kite Pharma and Cell Design Labs have been involved in a $67.5 million collaboration targeting the development of next-generation, precision-controlled CAR-T immunotherapy candidates since June 2016. In addition, Kite’s founder Arie Belldegrun—and the company itself—are investors in Cell Design Labs.

As part of the recent deal, Gilead will acquire all outstanding shares of Cell Design Labs, including those owned by Kite. Cell Design Labs will receive an upfront payment of $175 million and up to an additional $322 million in milestone payments. The deal is expected to close sometime not long after approval by regulatory agencies.

“This transaction has the potential to significantly advance the field, ultimately leading to the development of transformative treatments for cancer and other complex diseases,” said Dr. Lim. Gilead President and CEO John F. Milligan, commented on the acquisition: “Cell Design Labs’ talented team of cell biology experts will augment and accelerate our work to bring forward new generations of CAR-T and T-cell receptor (TCR) therapies, building on our acquisition of Kite earlier this year and our efforts to improve care for people with advanced cancers.”


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