Cellectis Sees Independent Future After Pfizer Deal

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- The chairman and CEO of French biotech Cellectis said the company intends to preserve its independence after agreeing to sell a 10% stake to Pfizer PFE as part of a partnership that could trigger multiple milestone payments of $185 million and undisclosed royalties.

The New York company last week agreed to pay Cellectis $80 million up front for exclusive rights to develop and commercialize Cellectis' chimeric antigen receptor T-cell immunotherapies for 15 oncology targets chosen by Pfizer.

The companies will work together on preclinical research on four Cellectis-selected targets, on which Pfizer has the first right of refusal, and Cellectis will work independently on eight additional targets. Pfizer will contribute an undisclosed amount of R&D funding for the 19 targets it has a stake in and pay Cellectis undisclosed royalties on future sales. The agreement specifies milestone payments of up to $185 million per product; each target -- the surface protein on which cancer cells are displaying -- could yield several products.

Cellectis chairman and CEO Andre Choulika said the two companies have for almost a decade been collaborating on gene editing technology and the "chemistry" between the two sets of scientists prompted Cellectis to select Pfizer from a pool of pharma companies from the U.S., Japan and elsewhere with whom the French company had held advanced talks.

Provided two-thirds of Cellectis shareholder concur, Pfizer will also buy new Cellectis shares equivalent to 10% of the share capital at 9.25 euros ($12.58) per Cellectis share, but Choulika said a takeover isn't in the cards.

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