Gene editing company Cellectis stands to collect as much as $245 million in cash and equity investment in the company via a collaboration with AstraZeneca as the pharma giant continues its push into the cell and gene therapy space.
Under the terms of the agreement AstraZeneca will gain access to the proprietary gene editing and manufacturing capabilities of Cellectis, which it will leverage across its drug development programs targeting oncology, immunology, and rare diseases. The collaboration will reserve 25 genetic targets for AstraZeneca from which it can select up to ten candidates for development. AstraZeneca will retain an option for exclusive rights to any candidates selected, which would be exercised before an investigational new drug (IND) filing.
Monetary considerations for Cellectis include an upfront payment of $25 million and an equity investment of $80 million by subscribing to 16 million ordinary shares in Cellectics priced at $5.00 per share. An additional memorandum of understanding could see AstraZeneca invest an additional $140 million at a future date for class A and class B shares in the company also at $5.00 per share. If the additional equity investment is made, AstraZeneca would own a 43% stake in Cellectis.
“The differentiated capabilities Cellectis has in gene editing and manufacturing complement our in-house expertise and investments made in the past year,” said Marc Dunoyer, chief strategy officer, AstraZeneca, and CEO, Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease. “AstraZeneca continues to advance our ambition in cell therapy for oncology and autoimmune diseases as well as in genomic medicine, which has potential to be transformative for patients with rare diseases.”
The deal with Cellectis comes roughly 15 months after AstraZeneca’s Alexion research group cemented a $1 billion deal for the acquisition and licensing of Pfizer’s early-stage gene therapy programs in rare diseases aimed at enhancing the company’s genomic medicine capabilities.
Alexion was acquired by AstraZeneca in 2021 for $39 billion—one of the most expensive pharma acquisitions of recent years.
In the deal announced today, Cellectis said in a press release that it will use the proceeds from the transaction to further develop its gene editing tools and for R&D expenses for its current development programs. The company’s current therapeutic pipeline focuses CAR T treatments for blood and bone marrow cancers, with programs targeting leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. The investment from AstraZeneca is expected to be a big boost for the company.
“We believe AstraZeneca is the perfect match to Cellectis by providing world-class expertise in the development and the commercialization of innovative medicines,” said André Choulika, PhD, Cellectis’ CEO. “This collaboration will allow us to leverage our pioneering research in gene editing and cell therapies, as well as our cutting-edge capabilities in manufacturing with the ambition to bring potentially life-saving therapies to patients with unmet medical need.”