The Los Angeles-based team of executives who sold Kite Pharma Inc. last summer to Gilead Sciences Inc. for nearly $12 billion didn’t take long to start a biotech company to develop cellular cancer treatments.
Allogene Therapeutics Inc., launched by Kite founder Arie Belldegrun two months after the sale, has raised $420 million – including a private financing last month of $120 million.
Now the South San Francisco-based firm has filed for initial public offering that could raise up to $288 million more to fuel a pipeline of 17 off-the-shelf cancer treatments known as allogeneic CAR T therapies.
“Arie Belldegrun is a tour de force,” said Peter Emtage, global head of cell therapy research for Kite, a Gilead Co., while addressing a Southern California Biomedical Council conference last month in Long Beach. “Arie Belldegrun can raise money anywhere, wherever.
“You let Arie Belldegrun do his thing – he will do it.”
He certainly did it with Kite Pharma, which turned out to be the priciest acquisition in the history of Foster City-based Gilead Sciences, a company that took in $21.6 billion in revenue and $4.6 billion in profits last year, with a market capitalization now around $102 billion.
The deal also served as a Los Angeles starting gun in a wider race to dominate an emerging field of cell-based cancer treatments.
Allogene is now in the thick of the race. Among its founders are Belldegrun and Dr. David Chang, former chief medical officer of Kite. Among its investors is Pfizer Inc. – and Gilead.
The investment from Gilead doesn’t mean Allogene won’t compete with the new owner of Kite to find a cure for a variety of cancers. The two companies do take different approaches, though.
Gilead’s efforts center on the development of personalized therapies, where treatments include modifying a sick patient’s own autologous T cells to combat cancer.
Allogene, on the other hand, aims to develop a cure for a range of cancers with off-the-shelf treatments derived from the allogeneic T cells of healthy donors, which are then modified for universal use.
“Our goal is to maintain our leadership in allogeneic CAR T therapy and be the first company to develop and commercialize an allogeneic CAR T product,” said Chang, now chief executive of Allogene, in a statement after the company’s Sept. 6 private placement. The IPO filing also came last month, and executives are now in a required quiet period as the company seeks federal approval.
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