The French big pharma Sanofi has offered €308M to acquire the Dutch firm Kiadis Pharma and get hold of cancer cell therapies based on a type of immune cells called natural killer cells.
The offer comes not long after Sanofi inked a deal worth up to €857.5M to license a preclinical-stage cancer cell therapy from Kiadis Pharma. With the €308M acquisition due to close in early 2021, Sanofi stands to own all of Kiadis’ programs, including a phase II-stage candidate for the treatment of blood cancer and a preclinical-stage therapy for Covid-19.
This acquisition offer has brightened the outlook for Kiadis’ investors, with the company’s stock price skyrocketing by more than 200% over the weekend.
Kiadis Pharma is one of the most advanced companies developing therapies based on natural killer cells. However, the company has had a rollercoaster 12 months leading up to this acquisition.
In November last year, Kiadis laid off half of its workforce and abandoned the development of a phase III-stage T-cell therapy for graft-versus-host disease in blood cancer patients who have received bone marrow transplants. The decision came as the company concluded an ongoing phase III trial was unlikely to meet its aims. Furthermore, Kiadis had withdrawn an application for conditional approval of the same therapy from the EMA due to ongoing questions over the evidence for its clinical benefits.
When Kiadis discontinued the T-cell therapy program, it turned its full attention to its natural killer cell therapy candidates, which had been acquired from the purchase of US firm Cytosen Therapeutics for €32M in June last year. Now it seems Kiadis has succeeded in spinning a relatively small investment into a high-profile big pharma acquisition.
“After the discontinuation of our lead product candidate and subsequent reorganization in 2019, we restarted Kiadis early in 2020 as an entirely new company,” said Arthur Lahr, CEO of Kiadis, in a public statement. “Sanofi’s offer is a clear testimony to the uniqueness of our natural killer cell platform and the rapid success of Kiadis’ transformation.”
The acquisition of Kiadis is yet another of the many deals in the natural killer cell space over the past year. Natural killer cell therapies could improve on some of the drawbacks of the only currently approved cancer therapies, which are based on immune T cells. One of the major advantages is that they could be easily made from donor cells rather than having to be produced individually for each patient using their own cells.
However, not all natural killer cell therapy developers are seeing big rewards. Last week, for example, disappointing clinical data with a CAR T-cell therapy for solid tumors led the US biotech Bellicum Pharmaceuticals to hit the pause button on its natural killer cell therapy program and lay off 79% of its staff. The aim was to channel its cash reserves into pushing ahead with its CAR T-cell programs.
Image from Elena Resko