- Sanofi has agreed to buy Netherlands biotech Kiadis Pharma for 308 million euros, or about $358 million, to access technology aimed at developing cancer-fighting cell therapies derived from healthy donors. The deal, announced Monday, values Kiadis at more than three times its closing share price on Friday.
- Kiadis' three experimental therapies will join a growing pipeline of oncology candidates at Sanofi, which has 30 trials underway across various types of cancer. Oncology and immunology drugs have been a focus for Sanofi under CEO Paul Hudson, and the Kiadis deal represents the second acquisition in 12 months trying to add to the company's pipeline.
- For Kiadis, the deal validates a decision to buy the cell therapy technology with its own acquisition of CytoSen Therapeutics and abandon work on an experimental stem-cell transplant product it had been developing for more than a decade.
Kiadis formed in 1997 and spent a good chunk of its life as an independent company developing an experimental product called ATIR101, a donor-derived stem cell transplant for blood cancers that was designed to avoid graft-versus-host disease, a common immune response to transplants.
Development progressed as far as Kiadis asking the European Medicines Agency for approval, but in November 2019 the company decided to withdraw the application because it did not compare ATIR101 to the "Baltimore protocol" using high-dose chemotherapy to prevent graft-versus-host disease.
By then, Kiadis had bought CytoSen, which licensed cell therapy technology originally from the University of Central Florida and further refined at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio. CytoSen's use of natural killer cells to attack tumors was similar to Kiadis' work on stem-cell therapies. Kiadis subsequently abandoned ATIR101 and laid off half its employees to focus on the CytoSen pipeline.
Earlier this year, Sanofi licensed a Kiadis experimental natural killer cell therapy designed to work with the French big pharma's multiple myeloma antibody Sarclisa. The acquisition now allows Sanofi to take possession of the rest of the Kiadis pipeline, which includes three other named experimental products.
One is similar to ATIR101, but is being tested together with the Baltimore protocol treatment. Another is in leukemia, and the biotech also is developing a preventive COVID-19 therapy.
The use of donor-derived cells to produce cancer-fighting cell therapies are a departure from the work of Novartis, Gilead Sciences and Bristol-Myers Squibb. So-called CAR-T therapies from those companies require the use of patients' own immune cells, which can make treatment a particularly complex and time-consuming process.
Owning a cell therapy technology will help beef up Sanofi's oncology division, which has trailed rivals and has few treatment approaches outside of antibody-based drugs.