In a blockbuster endorsement of its gene-editing technology, Gilead $GILD has tapped Sangamo’s zinc finger nuclease approach to tailoring its next-gen programs for off-the-shelf as well as personalized therapies. And Gilead, which seized a leading spot in the CAR-T world with its acquisition of Kite, is fronting the deal with $150 million in cash and slightly more than $3 billion in milestones.
The deal gives Gilead an exclusive position with Sangamo $SGMO, which has been working with its ZFN gene editing tech for years. While CRISPR/Cas9 and TALENs have figured prominently in gene editing, with rival off-the-shelf CAR-T developer Cellectis initially preferring TALENs, Sangamo has been making some dramatic advances in recent months.
Gilead, meanwhile, signaled with its acquisition of Cell Design that it was serious about investing big in CAR-T 2.0, and few programs are as ambitious as the move to use healthy donor cells to create a simpler, less expensive alternative to the pricey personalized therapies now hitting the market from Novartis and Gilead.
And it’s willing to continue to invest heavily through the development process. In a filing with the SEC today, Sangamo noted:
Of this amount (for milestones), approximately $1.26 billion relates to the achievement of specified research, clinical development and first commercial sale milestones, and approximately $1.75 billion relates to the achievement of specified commercial sales-based milestones if annual worldwide net sales of Licensed Products reach specified levels. Each development- and sales-based milestone payment is payable (i) only once for each Licensed Product, regardless of the number of times that the associated milestone event is achieved by such Licensed Product, and (ii) only for the first ten times that the associated milestone event is achieved, regardless of the number of Licensed Products that may achieve such milestone event. In addition, Sangamo will be entitled to receive escalating, tiered royalty payments with a percentage in the single digits based on potential future annual worldwide net sales of Licensed Products. These royalty payments will be subject to reduction due to patent expiration, entry of biosimilar products to the market and payments made under certain licenses for third-party intellectual property.
Now both Novartis $NVS — working with CRISPR tech from Intellia Therapeutics and Caribou Biosciences — and Celgene $CELG, which just bought out Juno, have been served notice that the next-gen tech race in CAR-T is in full swing. How will they respond?
The deal marks the second big tech endorsement for Sangamo in a little more than a month. Pfizer started the year by inking an alliance with the gene editing crew on ALS, building on their original pact for hemophilia A. Pfizer had earlier allied itself with Spark in a move to get into the lead of the gene therapy field, working on hemophilia B.
“The emergence of gene editing as a tool to edit immune cells holds promise in the development of therapies with potentially improved safety, efficacy and efficiency,” said Gilead CEO John Milligan in a statement. “We believe Sangamo’s zinc finger nucleases provide the optimal gene editing platform, and we look forward to working with Sangamo to accelerate our efforts to develop next-generation autologous cell therapies, as well as allogeneic treatments that can be accessed more conveniently in the hospital setting for people living with cancer.”
Image: Gilead CEO John Milligan. bloomberg via getty images
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