It was clear from Allogene Therapeutics’ day 1 that Arie Belldegrun and David Chang were in no shortage of investors eager to back their allogeneic CAR-T therapies: They gathered $300 million in short order from a syndicate that features Pfizer, TPG and Vida Ventures.
The pair of Kite vets have driven the point home again with a $120 million private financing announced Thursday morning as they worked to fill out the full team of execs who will run the show.
A considerable number of first-time investors jumped on board: Perceptive Advisors (which led the financing), Deerfield Management, Fidelity Management, Franklin Templeton Investments, Jennison Associates, Surveyor Capital (a Citadel company), and “additional large mutual funds.”
“We are very pleased to significantly expand our investor base with support from a distinguished syndicate who understand the cell therapy landscape,” said Chang, co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “Our goal is to maintain our leadership in allogeneic CAR T therapy and be the first company to develop and commercialize an allogeneic CAR T product. This financing will help us accelerate the development of our broad portfolio and invest in world class technical operations to make potentially lifesaving cell therapies more readily accessible to patients.”
It’s a big goal that won’t come cheap. And Allogene is in for the long haul.
“While we are in a very strong financial position following our $300 million financing in April, we received much interest in Allogene from new investors,” chief communications officer Christine Cassiano elaborated in an email. “As we look ahead, it was important to not only strengthen our cash position, but to build relationships with some very high caliber investment firms.”
Allogene emerged overnight as a top candidate to commercialize the first off-the-shelf CAR-T therapies by grabbing Pfizer’s portfolio of 16 preclinical targets as well as a partnership on UCART19, a Phase I asset co-developed by Cellectis. It’s currently based out of Pfizer’s old digs at South San Francisco,
Instead of a lengthy and expensive personalized autologous approach that requires the extraction and reengineering of patient cells into a potent therapy that has proved particularly effective in blood cancers, Allogene is looking to perfect a gene editing process that can develop 50 to 100 therapeutic batches from a single donor. If it works, it will be cheaper and faster than the first CAR-Ts, Yescarta and Kymriah.
Belldegrun and Chang — who rose to star status after running and eventually selling Kite to Gilead for $12 billion — have been recruiting esteemed execs to help carry out that vision.
Alison Moore joined as chief technical officer in June following a career at Amgen and Genentech; two months later Susie Jun, formerly of Amgen and Gilead, jumped from AbbVie-Stemcentrx to become the chief development officer; then there’s David Tillet, SVP of quality, who came on board days ago after consulting with the biotech for some time.
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