- Gilead Sciences Inc. subsidiary Kite Pharma Inc. is tapping Sangamo Therapeutics Inc. for its zinc finger technology platform to develop ex vivo cell therapies for cancer indications.
- The big biotech will pay $150 million upfront to Sangamo, and the smaller biotech has the potential to earn $3 billion in development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments related to 10 products that could be based on the platform.
- Kite will be responsible for all development, commercialization and manufacturing of any compounds that result, while Sangamo will be eligible for tiered royalties on sales.
With the much-needed acquisition of Kite, Gilead entered a whole new realm of development — cell therapies.
Though the big biotech gained a CAR-T drug on the eve of approval with the Kite buy, the therapy has not yet proven its commercial viability. Gilead CEO John Mulligan said a year before the acquisition that he didn't believe in the cell therapies, but changed his tune after his company picked up Kite, touting it as breakthrough science.
But even Gilead — which is now staking much of its future on the success of these products — realizes the currently approved CAR-T therapies are likely just the first generation of these products.
Since its $11.9 billion takeover of Kite, Gilead has been fleshing out its cell therapy capabilities and bringing in technologies that could help bolster its ability to make the next-gen iteration of these treatments.
In December, Gilead made its first move to add to its cell therapy capabilities with the acquisition of Cell Design Labs for $175 million upfront and the promise of $567 million in milestones.
Gilead could potentially secure the capabilities to offer allogeneic, or off-the-shelf, cell therapies that would come from a healthy donor instead of from the patient themselves by using Sangamo's technology. The allogeneic technology would allow cell therapies to be delivered to patients more quickly.
Sangamo's technology has been around for more than two decades, but fell out of favor as many in the industry discounted its potential as a gene editing tool in comparison to newer innovations like CRISPR. The zinc finger nucleases work by snipping DNA in a precise spot and adding in the corrective gene.
The deal with Gilead gives further validation to Sangamo and its technology, as well as providing the big biotech a means of adding to its cell therapy arsenal.