Stem cell drug developer Gamida Cell is weighing a buyout offer from “a global pharmaceutical company” that has offered it hundreds of millions of dollars, two of the company’s key shareholders told Israeli regulators, amid a published report that stated the would-be buyer is Novartis.

Clal Biotechnology Industries told the Tel Aviv Securities Exchange today that the potential buyer – which it did not name – had offered for Gamida Cell “a significant immediate payment as well as future milestone-based payments (development/regulatory/sales related to the drugs developed by Gamida Cell) amounting up to several hundred million dollars.”

Clal owns about 22% of Gamida Cell, whose lead stem cell therapy product, StemEx®, was co-developed by the company and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. StemEx is an alternative, experimental treatment for bone marrow transplants designed to benefit blood cancer patients who cannot find a matched related bone marrow donor.

Last year Gamida Cell completed an international, Phase II/III clinical trial that it said demonstrated proof of concept of StemEx’s mode of action. While the company initially expected to use the Phase II/III data for a BLA and launch in a couple of years, the FDA upended those plans by requesting the company conduct another Phase III trial that would be a randomized, controlled clinical study of the product.

Also disclosing the buyout offer was Elbit Medical Technologies, which owns 30.8% of Gamida Cell. Elbit also characterized the buyer as offering “significant immediate payment and additional future payments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The disclosures came as the Israeli newspaper Globes identified Novartis as the would-be buyer and reported that the pharma giant was “in a very advanced stage” of talks to acquire the stem cell company for “up to $600 million.”

Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper Globes reported that Novartis would pay “several hundred millions dollars in a down payment for the company, and several hundred millions dollars more” in payments tied to milestones.”

Acquisition of the company by Novartis is believed to offer Gamida Cell the advantage of a higher valuation than were the stem cell company to go public through an initial public offering, as had been speculated in recent weeks.

“We don’t comment on market speculations and/or rumors,” Novartis told GEN at deadline.

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