VivaBioCell, an Italian developer of stem cell and tissue engineering therapies, has been acquired for an undisclosed price by NantCell, a targeted cancer therapy developer founded by Abraxis BioScience founder Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D., and part of his NantWorks umbrella of nine companies.
Through the deal, NantCell aims to develop VivaBioCell’s automated cell culture and growth manufacturing platform, called GMP-in-a-Box. Current applications of GMP-in-a-Box include developing stem cells to treat osteoarthritis, and bone regeneration for dental /maxillofacial reconstruction.
The combined company plans to use GMP-in-a-Box to develop next-generation manufacturing for immune cells used in treating cancer, such as natural killer cells.
“Bringing the two organizations together strengthens NantCell’s capabilities in tissue engineering and cell culture capabilities and enables next-generation low cost manufacturing systems in the era of cell based immunotherapy,” Dr. Soon-Shiong said in a statement.
The acquisition is the second in as many months for Dr. Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks. Last month, its NantPharma entity agreed to pay Sorrento Therapeutics up to $1.3 billion for its drug candidate Cynviloq™ (paclitaxel nanoparticle polymeric micelle). NantWorls and Sorrento agreed in December 2014 to co-develop cancer immunotherapies.
As for NantCell itself, earlier this month it disclosed in a Form D regulatory filing that it raised $75 million in equity.
“With the acquisition of VivaBioCell, we have added novel and complementary cell culture capabilities and extended our geographic footprint,” Dr. Soon-Shiong said.
Added Prof. Francesco Curcio, VivaBioCell’s president and CSO: “I have collaborated with Dr. Soon-Shiong for over 20 years in the field of stem cell research and integrating with NantCell is the culmination of our many years working together in this field.”
As part of the deal, NantCell also acquired VivaBioCell’s diagnostic product, which according to the buyer can identify patients with systemic sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Dr. Soon-Shiong, who created Abraxane® and founded the nab® technology platform, established NantCell to develop a pipeline of humanized antibodies and inhibitors of proteins which drive tumor growth. NantCell says it is applying comprehensive pan-omic analytical tools and big data to develop molecularly-designed drugs to identify patients based on their unique tumor signature at cellular, DNA and protein levels. The company also aims to supplant standard “trial and error” clinical trial design with quantitative predictability based on advance genomic and proteomic profiling.
The acquisition was announced Tuesday by another NantWorks entity, VBC Holdings.