Cellectis Stock Jumps Following Natural Killer Cell Deal with Cytovia

Natural Killer Cells

Shares of gene-editing pioneer company Cellectis Therapeutics were up nearly 10% in premarket trading after the company forged a deal with Cambridge, Mass.-based Cytovia Therapeutics to develop immunotherapies based on gene-edited allogeneic CAR T-cells.

France-based Cellectis has been honing the development and implementation of TAL nucleases (TALEN), which are based on a class of proteins derived from transcription activator-like effectors. Cellectis will pair its gene-editing TALEN technology with Cytovia’s induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform for CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptors) NK (natural Killer) cell therapy technology.

Cellectis is granting Cytovia a worldwide license to its TALEN gene-editing technology, enabling Cytovia to modify NK cells addressing multiple gene targets for therapeutic use in several cancer indications.

Cellectis will develop custom TALEN, which Cytovia will use to edit iPSCs. Cytovia will be responsible for the differentiation and expansion of the gene-edited iPSC master cell bank into NK cells and will conduct the pre-clinical evaluation, clinical development, and commercialization of the mutually-agreed-upon selected therapeutic candidates. The companies did not disclose the initial targets of the collaboration but said they hope to enter the clinic in 2022.

Daniel Teper, chairman and chief executive officer of Cytovia, said he was excited about working with Cellectis and its team of experienced gene-editing specialists who will be able to further accelerate Cytovia’s NK cell program.

“Cellectis has a deep understanding and proven expertise in gene-edited cell therapies, and their gene-editing technology, TALEN®, will yield NK and CAR-NK treatments with improved potency, persistence, and safety for a variety of cancers, including solid tumors. We look forward to leveraging Cellectis’ insights and experience to help move Cytovia’s CAR-NKs into clinical trials by 2022,” Teper said in a statement.

André Choulika, CEO of Cellectis, also expressed his excitement about the collaboration.

“We are looking forward to this collaboration and the opportunity to further expand the potency of our proprietary TALEN gene-editing technology to iPSCs and CAR-NKs. Down the road, this collaboration should allow for NK cell therapies to be made available to cancer patients, which is very much in line with Cellectis’ mission to provide life-saving product candidates to address unmet patient needs in this field.”

Financial terms of the collaboration include up to $760 million of development, regulatory and sales milestones from Cytovia to Cellectis for the first 5 TALEN gene-edited iPSC-derived NK products. Cellectis will also receive single-digit royalty payments on the net sales of all partnered products commercialized by Cytovia. Cellectis will receive an equity stake of $15 million in Cytovia stock or an upfront cash payment of $15 million if certain conditions are not met by Dec. 31 of this year.

For Cytovia, the partnership with Cellectis follows a licensing agreement with the National Cancer Institute announced in January to use its gene-edited iPSC-derived NK cell technology to develop GPC3 CAR NK cell therapeutics. Cytovia also signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the National Cancer Institute. Under the CRADA, Cytovia will collaborate with the NCI to develop and evaluate gene-edited iPSC-derived GPC3 CAR NK cells. Cytovia expects to file an initial new drug application for its GPC3 CAR NK cells in the first half of 2022.

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