AstraZeneca boosts cancer portfolio with $320 mln Neogene deal

A company logo is seen at the AstraZeneca site in Macclesfield, Britain, May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Nov 29 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) will acquire biotechnology company Neogene Therapeutics for up to $320 million, the London-listed drugmaker said on Tuesday, seeking to build its pipeline of cell-based cancer treatments.

Though AstraZeneca's oncology portfolio accounted for more than a third of the company's revenue last year, it does not have an approved cell-based cancer therapy and is behind rivals such as Novartis (NOVN.S) and Gilead (GILD.O).

"Neogene's leading (T-cell receptor) discovery capabilities and extensive manufacturing experience complement the cell therapy capability we have built over the last three years," said Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca's executive vice president of oncology research.

Cell-based treatments are a relatively new approach to treating cancer, most of which involve drawing the body's own immune cells and processing them in the lab to target and kill cancer cells.

Neogene's approach goes one step further in that its experimental T-cell receptor therapies seek to target DNA mutations specific to tumours, not only certain proteins on the surface of cancer cells.

"Our expertise, clinical portfolio and platform technologies in this area combined with AstraZeneca's leadership in oncology and global footprint mean we are well-positioned to translate pioneering science into novel treatments for hard-to-treat cancers," said Neogene Chief Executive Carsten Linnemann.

Linnemann founded Neogene in the Netherlands in 2018 along with the Netherlands Cancer Institute's Ton Schumacher. It has headquarters in Amsterdam and Santa Monica, California.

AstraZeneca will make an initial payment of $200 million to Neogene, with a further $120 million dependent on the company meeting certain targets.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said the deal does not affect its full-year financial guidance and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023.

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru Editing by Dhanya Ann Thoppil and David Goodman

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