Allogene Therapeutics began trading on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange today under the ALLO ticker. The price was at the top of its range, $18 per share. The company plans to raise $288 million with the sale of about 16 million shares.
Allogene is a clinical stage biotech company focused on allogeneic CAR-T (AlloCAR T) treatments for cancer. Currently, the two approved CAR-T products, Novartis’ Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Gilead Sciences’ Yescarta (Axicabtagene ciloleucel), are highly individualized. In other words, immune cells are drawn from the cancer patient, sent to the companies’ laboratories, where the CAR-T cells are engineered to respond specifically to the patient’s cancer, then returned to the physician, who infuses them back into the cancer patient. The immune cells, now a “living drug” grow in the patient and fight the cancer.
Allogeneic CAR-T is an attempt to have an “off-the-shelf” CAR-T product that wouldn’t require the lengthy, complicated and expensive engineering process and turnaround.
Allogene Therapeutics launched in April 2018 with a $300 million Series A financing. The investors included TPG, Vida Ventures, BellCo Capital, the University of California Office of the Chief Investment Officer, Pfizer and others. Allogene is a Two River portfolio company.
On September 6, the company raised another $120 million private financing of Convertible Notes. It was led by Perceptive Advisors and included Deerfield Management Company, Fidelity Management and Research Company, Franklin Templeton Investments, Jennison Associates, Surveyor Capital, T. Rowe Price Associates funds, the University of California Office of the Chief Investment Officer, venBio Select Advisor and additional large mutual funds.
The company was co-founded by former Kite Pharma executives, Arie Belldegrun, and David Chang. Belldegrun, founder and former chair, president and chief executive officer of Kite, is executive chairman. Chang, former executive vice president, Research and Development and chief medical officer of Kite, is president and chief executive officer. They were both involved in the development of Yescarta.
The company’s lead asset is UCART19, part of an asset deal it picked up from Pfizer and Servier.Allogene received rights to 16 preclinical CAR-T licenses that Pfizer licensed from Cellectis and Servier. UCART19 was an asset it licensed from Servier. It is being developed in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
At the time, STAT News wrote, “Allogene Therapeutics … has raised $300 million to acquire and advance a portfolio of experimental cell therapies previously controlled by Pfizer. As a consequence of the deal, Pfizer is getting out of the business of being a major CAR-T player, though it will take a 25 percent ownership stake in Allogene.”
Allogene and Servier plan to start Phase II trials of UCART19 in 2019. Pfizer still has an 8 percent ownership stake in Cellectis through an equity deal they signed in 2014.
In an April statement, Belldegrun said, “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. Under the direction of David Chang, an extraordinary scientist, physician and life sciences business executive with over 30 years of unprecedented experience in developing cancer treatments, Allogene is poised to potentially lead the development of one of the most exciting opportunities in industry today.”
Allogene is not the only company working on off-the-shelf CAR-T products. Juno/Celgene is as well. And in February, Gilead signed a partnership deal with Sangamo Therapeutics to use Sangamo’s gene editing tech platform to develop allogeneic CAR-T products.
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