Former Kite Pharma Execs Launch Allogene Therapeutics with Pfizer Support and $300 Million
Allogene was co-founded by former Kite Pharma executives, Arie Belldegrun, and David Chang. Belldegrun, founder and former chair, president and chief executive officer of Kite, will be executive chairman of the new company. Chang, former executive vice president, Research and Development and chief medical officer, of Kite, will be president and chief executive officer.
Allogene’s focus will be on off-the-shelf CAR-T therapy products. CAR-T as it exists, is an effective immuno-oncology therapy, but it is expensive and time-consuming because it is geared to each patient individually. Blood is taken from the cancer patient, sent to a laboratory, where it the CAR-T product is uniquely engineered for that patient, then returned to the patient’s physician, who infuses it back into the patient.
STAT News notes, “Allogene Therapeutics, which was unveiled Tuesday morning, has raised $300 million to acquire and advance a portfolio of experimental cell therapies previously controlled by Pfizer. As a consequence of the deal, Pfizer is getting out of the business of being a major CAR-T player, though it will take a 25 percent ownership stake in Allogene.”
The lead asset is UCART19, which showed fairly lackluster results in early-stage clinical trials. “When I actually looked at the clinical data, what I saw was more of a promise,” Chang told STAT. “We felt that all the right components were there. What we had to do was bring an experienced team into the equation—and also the financial backing.”
“The allogeneic CAR-T platform represents a potentially transformative approach to treating cancer, and we are very excited about what the future may hold for this area of research,” said Robert Abraham, senior vice president and group head, Oncology Research & Development at Pfizer, in a statement. “We believe that under the strong scientific, clinical development and regulatory expertise of Allogene’s leadership team, the portfolio of CAR-T assets contributed by Pfizer will be well-positioned to rapidly advance into potential innovative new therapies, and ultimately to reach patients in need more quickly.”
As part of the deal, Allogene receives rights to 16 preclinical CAR-T licenses that Pfizer licensed from Cellectis and Servier, and one clinical asset licensed from Servier, UCART19. UCART19 is being developed in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and is currently in Phase I studies. It utilizes TALEN gene editing technology owned by Cellectis.
Allogene and Servier plan to start Phase II trials in 2019.
Pfizer still will have an 8 percent ownership stake in Cellectis through an equity deal they signed in 2014. Allogene was formed with Series A financing of $300 million from a consortium that includes TPG, Vida Ventures, BellCo Capital, the University of California Office of the Chief Investment Officer and Pfizer, as well as others. Allogene is a Two River portfolio company.
“While there is important work underway across the industry for next-generation autologous cell therapy, Allogene hopes to bring about the next revolution in the field with the successful development of allogeneic cell therapy and the potential for greater and faster patient access,” Belldegrun said in a statement. “Under the direction of David Chang, an extraordinary scientist, physician and life sciences business executive with over 30 years of unprecedented experience in developing cancer treatments, Allogene is poised to potentially lead the development of one of the most exciting opportunities in industry today.”