Galapagos NV continued to advance its plan to bring the manufacture of cell therapies closer to patients under an agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc to supply services to a new production site in California, US. Announced on 4 January, the collaboration is the latest iteration of a strategy being rolled out by Paul Stoffels, a former chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson Inc, who became the Galapagos CEO on 1 April 2022.
Novartis is to take over Calypso Biotech BV, a portfolio company of Gilde Healthcare, a specialist investor based in the Netherlands. Calypso is a spin out of Merck KGaA and is researching and developing antibody therapeutics for a range of chronic autoimmune diseases by blocking interleukin-15 (IL-15). IL-15 is an immune axis that controls downstream immune cascades in many autoimmune diseases.
Merck & Co Inc, a leader in the checkpoint blockade of cancers, is to develop T cell engager compounds following the acquisition of Harpoon Therapeutics Inc of South San Francisco, California, US. The takeover, valued at $680 million, is expected to close in the first half of 2024. Harpoon has developed technology for directing a patient’s own immune cells to kill tumour cells. Also known as T cell engagers, Harpoon says its compounds have been optimised for the treatment of solid tumours.
Oxford Biomedica Plc of the UK has acquired ABL Europe SAS of France giving it a significant presence on the continental European market as a contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO). ABL Europe is owned by Institut Mérieux, a holding company controlled by the Mérieux family of Lyon.
SanReno Therapeutics, a two-year old biopharma company with headquarters in Shanghai, China, has been acquired by Novartis, giving the Switzerland-based multinational two late-stage assets for immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgAN), a rare kidney disease. The value of the transaction, which was announced on 5 January, wasn’t disclosed. SanReno was founded in late 2021 as a joint venture between a group of venture capitalists and Chinook Therapeutics Inc, a US company with two Phase 3 assets for IgAN.
GSK Plc has reached an agreement to pay up to $1.4 billion to acquire Aiolos Bio Inc, an early clinical stage company with a respiratory product in-licensed from China. Unusually the upfront part of the deal is $1 billion, in excess of the $400 million in potential milestone payments which are contingent on reaching certain regulatory goals. The deal was announced on 9 January and will bolster GSK’s pipeline, which includes multiple respiratory products targeting interleukin 5 (IL-5), a powerful pro-inflammatory cytokine.
Novartis is to collaborate with Isomorphic Labs Ltd, a UK based digital biology company, to use artificial intelligence to discover small molecule and nucleic acid drug targets for new medicines. Based in London, Isomorphic was founded by Demis Hassabis, a co-founder of DeepMind, the creator of technology that can predict how proteins fold in order to form three-dimensional structures. This makes them eligible as drug targets.
The radiopharmaceutical sector has a new player following an agreement between Bristol Myers Squibb Co and RayzeBio Inc to combine forces to give BMS a new portfolio of experimental treatments for cancer focusing on solid tumours. Based in San Diego, US, RayzeBio is a Nasdaq listed company which was founded in 2020 to develop a treatment for patients with gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (GEP-NET), or tumours of the gastrointestinal tract. The company’s assets also include potential treatments for small cell lung cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, and renal cell cancer.
AstraZeneca Plc is to expand its pipeline of cell and gene therapies with the acquisition of the China-based company Gracell Biotechnologies Inc which has a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy in development for multiple myeloma. The deal value is $1.2 billion which includes an upfront cash payment as well as potential contingent value payments linked to the achievement of an undisclosed regulatory milestone. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2024.
A chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2022 for multiple myeloma has been given a boxed warning by the agency after patients treated with the drug developed secondary malignancies. The product, Carvykti (ciltacabtagene autoleucel), consists of a patient’s T cells that have been engineered to attach to the B cell maturation antigen (BCMA) on multiple myeloma calls and kill them. The FDA approved the therapy on the basis of deep and durable responses by patients taking the therapy.