(News Bulletin 247) – The French company announced that it had concluded an agreement with the British group which provides for an initial payment of $25 million and an initial stake in its capital of $80 million.

On this November 1st public holiday, the only major news is to be found in small capitalizations on the Paris market.

French biotech Cellectis jumped 180% to 2.52 euros around 2 p.m., a surge that brought its market capitalization to 138 million euros.

This company, created in 1999, specializes in the development of therapeutic products against serious illnesses, based on CAR-T cells (Chimeric Antigen Receptor-T cells). These are lymphocytes taken from the patient, modified to express this chimeric antigen receptor making it possible to better target cancer cells, and reinjected into the patient.

CAR-T therapies have notably produced convincing results in the treatment of cancers. But these treatments are struggling to find their economic model due to the cost linked to the complex manufacturing process, repeated from A to Z for each patient.

Several biotech companies, including French, are striving to develop a technology allowing the use of allogeneic CAR-T (rather than the initial autologous approach), in other words a therapy made from the cells of healthy donors, modified to then adapt to all patients, in order to allow large-scale production and therefore reduce costs.

Cellectis’ efforts caught the eye of a world-renowned pharmaceutical laboratory, namely AstraZeneca, the biotech announcing this Wednesday an agreement with the British company, which explains the stock market surge surrounding its action.

Upfront payment of $25 million

Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, “AstraZeneca will leverage Cellectis’ gene editing technologies and manufacturing capabilities to design new cell and gene therapy product candidates,” Cellectis explained.

“As part of this, 25 genetic targets have been exclusively reserved for AstraZeneca, from which up to 10 product candidates could be explored for development. AstraZeneca will have an option for an exclusive worldwide license on the product candidates, at exercise before submitting an application for authorization to proceed with clinical trials”, detailed the company.

With this in mind, AstraZeneca will finance Cellectis’ research costs, and will pay it an initial payment of $25 million. Other milestone payments may occur and will range between $70 million and $220 million. These payments will be linked to the development, regulatory approvals and commercial milestones achieved for the ten product candidates identified by the British company. The agreement also provides that Cellectis will receive tiered royalties on future sales of these products.

Up to $220 million injected into capital

In addition, AstraZeneca will take an $80 million stake in Cellectis’ capital by subscribing to 16 million shares for $5 per share. This participation will be carried out via the issue of new Cellectis shares. AstraZeneca will then own 22% of the company’s capital.

The British laboratory and the French biotech also concluded a memorandum of understanding on a possible additional investment of $140 million from AstraZeneca in the capital of Cellectis.

In the event that this latest memorandum of understanding is materialized, the completion of the additional investment would be subject to the approval of Cellectis shareholders, with the green light from the French Ministry of the Economy.

“We believe that AstraZeneca is the ideal partner for Cellectis, as it offers internationally renowned expertise in the development and commercialization of innovative medicines,” said the CEO of Cellectifs, Doctor André Choulika, quoted in a press release.

“This collaboration will allow us to leverage our pioneering research in gene editing and cell therapy, as well as our disruptive manufacturing capabilities, with the ambition to deliver life-saving therapies to patients whose medical needs are not met,” he added.

Obviously this agreement provides funding for Cellectis which guarantees its sustainability for several years. This even if the biotech was not facing an urgent need: at the end of last June, it had cash of 89 million dollars, an amount that the company considered sufficient to ensure the continuity of its activities until the third quarter of 2024 .