Pfizer in deal with Allogene to develop cancer cell therapies

(Reuters) - Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday it would take a 25 percent stake in Allogene Therapeutics to accelerate the development of CAR T cell therapies sourced from donors instead of patients.

A company logo is seen at a Pfizer office in Dublin, Ireland November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

CAR T drugs are seen as the future of cancer treatments, with a number of drugmakers looking to boost their pipeline with such drugs.

San Francisco-based Allogene specializes in allogeneic therapies that are engineered from cells of healthy donors, allowing them to be stored for “off-the-shelf” use and reducing the time patients must wait for treatment.

Allogene is co-founded and led by former Kite Pharma executives, including its former chief executive, Arie Belldegrun, who sold Kite to Gilead Sciences Inc for $12 billion last year.

“The agreement marks a shift in Pfizer’s strategy from an active role to a passive role in the CAR-T space,” Guggenheim analyst Tony Butler said in a client note.

Creating therapies for blood cancers and solid tumors from allogeneic CAR T cells could be “disruptive” in the immuno-oncology space, Butler said.

Allogene will receive from Pfizer rights to 16 pre-clinical CAR T assets, which are licensed from French cell therapy specialist Cellectis SA and French drugmaker Servier.

Cellectis, in which Pfizer has an 8 percent stake, is eligible to receive $2.8 billion on net sales of any products that are sold by Allogene.

San Francisco-based Allogene will also get rights to one clinical asset from Servier, which is called UCART19, an “off-the-shelf” cell therapy currently in early-stage study.

Pfizer will get a representation on Allogene’s board, but financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Servier and Allogene aim to start mid-stage studies in 2019, with Allogene having the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize UCART19 in the United States. Servier will have the exclusive rights to all other countries, Pfizer said.

Allogene is a Two River portfolio company, which was formed with $300 million from an investment consortium that includes TPG Capital, Vida Ventures, BellCo Capital, the University of California Office of the Chief Investment Officer and Pfizer.

U.S.-listed shares of Cellectis rose 16.2 percent to $35.72.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Anil D’Silva