Pfizer Makes French Connection in Push for Pipeline Deals

LONDON (The Deal) -- Drugs maker Pfizer (PFE) continued its efforts to boost its portfolio following its unsuccessful, 69.4 billion pounds ($117.6 billion), takeover run on the U.K.'s AstraZeneca (AZN) by unveiling a deal on Wednesday to take 10% of listed French biotech Cellectis and develop cancer treatments using its new partner's immunotherapy technology.

Pfizer shares have slipped about 5% since its interest in AstraZeneca first became public over the Easter weekend and both bidder and unwilling target are working overtime to convince investors of their attractive standalone prospects. Pfizer on Tuesday submitted a biologics license application to the FDA for a closely watched vaccine it is developing for meningitis, while AstraZeneca, whose revenue and earnings are declining as patents expire, last week struck a licensing deal worth up to $232.3 million with Synairgen, a London-listed biotech specializing in respiratory diseases.

The New York company said on Wednesday it will pay Cellectis $80 million upfront for exclusive rights to develop and commercialize Cellectis' chimeric antigen receptor T-cell immunotherapies to treat 15 oncology targets chosen by Pfizer.

Pfizer will also have first right of refusal on another four targets which Cellectis will choose -- the U.S. group will provide R&D funding for all 16 targets. Milestone payments to Cellectis will add as much as $185 million to the value of the deal, while the Paris company will also be eligible for unspecified royalties on sales of any products that are commercialized.

Cellectis shares surged on news of the deal with the world's second-largest drugs maker and were up 58%, at 9.79 euros, by mid-afternoon in Paris, valuing the stock at 245.5 million euros ($333.2 million). Cellectis' chimeric antigen receptor T-cell immunotherapy targets surface antigens on cells; antigens are substances that trigger the development of antibodies.

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