Pfizer will contribute its lead allogenic chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) candidate UCART19, licensed from Servier—as well as 16 preclinical CAR-T candidates licensed from Servier and Cellectis—to a cancer-fighting startup created with $300 million in financing to advance development of the therapies.

Pfizer has taken a 25% stake in the new company, Allogene Therapeutics, which will have exclusive rights to develop and commercialize UCART19 in the U.S., with Servier retaining UCART19 development rights elsewhere in the world. 

UCART19 is a Phase I allogenic CAR-T candidate that Pfizer has partnered with Servier to develop for treatment of CD19-expressing hematological malignancies, with an initial focus on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Allogene and Servier plan to advance UCART19 into Phase II next year.

“We believe that under the strong scientific and 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,” Robert Abraham, Ph.D., Pfizer SVP and group head, oncology research & development, said in a statement.

Allogene is a portfolio company of the life sciences investment firm Two River, formed with $300 million in Series A financing by an investment consortium that includes Pfizer as well as TPG, Vida Ventures, BellCo Capital, and the University of California Office of the Chief Investment Officer, among others. Pfizer, TPG, Vida Ventures, and BellCo Capital will be represented on Allogene's board of directors. 

The financing is expected to close in the second quarter, subject to closing conditions, Pfizer and Alllogene said.

Allogene said it will focus on treating both solid tumors and blood cancers through allogenic CAR-T therapies. The new company was co-founded by Arie Belldegrun, M.D., FACS, founder and former chairman, president, and CEO of Kite, and David Chang, M.D., Ph.D., former EVP, R&D and CMO of Kite. Dr. Belldegrun will serve as Allogene's executive chairman, while Dr. Chang will serve as the new company's president and CEO.

“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,” Dr. Belldegrun stated.

UCART19 utilizes TALEN® gene-editing technology pioneered and owned by Cellectis. Separately today, Cellectis and Allogene said that Allogene will assume Pfizer's strategic collaboration and license agreement with Cellectis, with exclusive rights to develop and commercialize previously defined allogeneic UCART programs directed at select targets.

The companies said Cellectis will remain eligible to receive clinical and commercial milestone payments of up to $2.885 billion, or $185 million per target for 15 targets and tiered royalties in the high single digits on net sales of any products that are commercialized by Allogene under the agreement.

The original agreement, which the companies entered into in 2014, is the fifth-largest immuno-oncology collaboration as ranked by GEN last month.

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