Cel­lec­tis boosts its cof­fers in re­vised off-the-shelf CAR-T deal with Servi­er

Years be­fore the CAR-T ther­a­pies Kym­ri­ah and Yescar­ta hit the mar­ket, two French com­pa­nies joined forces in a quest to bring off-the-shelf im­munother­a­pies based on gene-edit­ed al­lo­gene­ic CAR-T cells to fruition.

Now, the play­ers Cel­lec­tis and part­ner Servi­er have amend­ed the terms of their col­lab­o­ra­tion, six years af­ter they first inked a deal to co-de­vel­op Cel­lec­tis’ lead prod­uct can­di­date, UCART19, in ad­di­tion to five oth­er prod­uct can­di­dates tar­get­ing sol­id tu­mors.

Un­der the 2014 deal, Cel­lec­tis re­ceived $10 mil­lion up­front and was el­i­gi­ble to get up to $140 mil­lion for each of the six prod­uct can­di­dates po­ten­tial­ly de­vel­oped. Years lat­er, Servi­er ex­er­cised its op­tion to ac­quire ex­clu­sive glob­al rights to fur­ther de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize UCART19. Servi­er and Al­lo­gene, an out­fit run by Kite vets Arie Bellde­grun and re­search chief David Chang, now are work­ing on the ther­a­py to­geth­er and the CD19 ther­a­py is cur­rent­ly is in an ear­ly-stage tri­al for the treat­ment of re­lapsed/re­frac­to­ry acute lym­phoblas­tic leukemia.

On Wednes­day, Cel­lec­tis hand­ed the glob­al li­cense to de­vel­op and sell all next-gen­er­a­tion gene-edit­ed al­lo­gene­ic CAR T-cell can­di­dates tar­get­ing CD19 to Servi­er.  In do­ing so, Cel­lec­tis will re­ceive an ad­di­tion­al $26.7 mil­lion up­front and is el­i­gi­ble to get up to $410 mil­lion per prod­uct in mile­stone pay­ments, in ad­di­tion to roy­al­ties.

Mean­while, Cel­lec­tis is set to re­gain ex­clu­sive con­trol over the five undis­closed al­lo­gene­ic CAR-T cell tar­gets pre­vi­ous­ly cov­ered by the ini­tial Servi­er agree­ment.

Ex­ist­ing CAR-T ther­a­pies are en­gi­neered to work in this way: Cells are ex­tract­ed from the pa­tient and then ma­nip­u­lat­ed in a lab where chimeric anti­gen re­cep­tors are added to di­rect the pa­tient’s own T cells to snuff out spe­cif­ic can­cer cells once re-in­fused back in­to the pa­tient. By tar­get­ing CD19, a mark­er present on al­most all B cells, CAR-T ther­a­pies have shown re­mark­able po­ten­cy and dura­bil­i­ty in a num­ber of blood can­cers, in­clud­ing acute lym­phoblas­tic leukemia (ALL).

De­spite their abun­dant promise, the adop­tion of CAR-T ther­a­pies — No­var­tis’ Kym­ri­ah and Gilead’s Yescar­ta — has un­der­whelmed ini­tial ex­pec­ta­tions. The up­take of Kym­ri­ah was plagued by man­u­fac­tur­ing prob­lems, and de­spite No­var­tis’ at­tempt to ex­pand its ca­pac­i­ty, sales con­tin­ue to dis­ap­point com­mer­cial­ly, giv­ing Yescar­ta an edge in the mar­ket.

Mean­while, big side ef­fects — no­tably life-threat­en­ing episodes of cy­tokine re­lease syn­drome and neu­ro­tox­i­c­i­ty — as well as the ther­a­pies’ ex­pen­sive price tags have al­so lim­it­ed their use. A raft of drug de­vel­op­ers in­clud­ing Cel­lec­tis, Servi­er and Al­lo­gene are work­ing on a fix for some of these con­straints by de­vel­op­ing off-the-shelf CAR-T ther­a­pies, de­signed to smoothen man­u­fac­tur­ing com­plex­i­ties by us­ing healthy donor cells.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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When ef­fi­ca­cy is bor­der­line: FDA needs to get more con­sis­tent on close-call drug ap­provals, agency-fund­ed re­search finds

In the exceedingly rare instances in which clinical efficacy is the only barrier to a new drug’s approval, new FDA-funded research from FDA and Stanford found that the agency does not have a consistent standard for defining “substantial evidence” when flexible criteria are used for an approval.

The research comes as the FDA is at a crossroads with its expedited-review pathways. The accelerated approval pathway is under fire as the agency recently signed off on a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, with little precedent to explain its decision. Meanwhile, top officials like Rick Pazdur have called for a major push to simplify and clarify all of the various expedited pathways, which have grown to be must-haves for sponsors of nearly every newly approved drug.

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Ted White, Verrica CEO

Ver­ri­ca hits an­oth­er bump in the road with CMO re­lat­ed let­ter from FDA

The FDA has rejected Verrica’s new drug application for VP-102 again, with the company pinning the CRL on problems at a CMO that it was partnered with, the company announced Monday.

The FDA didn’t raise issues that directly relate to the manufacturing of VP-102, the company said, but raised “general quality issues” at the CMO’s facility. There were also no clinical concerns, it said, or need to collect more data.

Take­da snaps up the Japan­ese rights to an old Shire cast-off; Boehringer In­gel­heim ac­quires Abexxa Bi­o­log­ics

A week before the FDA is set to decide on Mirum Pharmaceuticals’ lead liver disease drug — an old Shire cast-off called maralixibat — Takeda is swooping in to secure the rights in Japan.

Maralixibat’s roots trace back to Lumena, which was snapped up by Shire for $260 million-plus back in 2014. While the candidate had failed mid-stage studies at Shire, Mirum believes better trial design and patient selection will deliver the wins it needs. The drug is currently in development for Alagille syndrome (a condition called ALGS in which bile builds up in the liver), progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC, which causes progressive liver disease) and biliary atresia (a blockage in the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder).

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.