AstraZeneca to collaborate with Cellectis to accelerate cell therapy and genomic medicine ambitions

AstraZeneca has announced a collaboration and investment agreement with Cellectis, a clinical-stage biotechnology company, to accelerate the development of next generation therapeutics in areas of high unmet need, including oncology, immunology and rare diseases.

Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, AstraZeneca will leverage the Cellectis proprietary gene editing technologies and manufacturing capabilities, to design novel cell and gene therapy products, strengthening AstraZeneca’s growing offering in this space. As part of the agreement, 25 genetic targets have been exclusively reserved for AstraZeneca, from which up to 10 candidate products could be explored for development.

Marc Dunoyer, Chief Strategy Officer, AstraZeneca, and Chief Executive Officer, Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease, said: “The differentiated capabilities Cellectis has in gene editing and manufacturing complement our in-house expertise and investments made in the past year. AstraZeneca continues to advance our ambition in cell therapy for oncology and autoimmune diseases as well as in genomic medicine, which has potential to be transformative for patients with rare diseases.”

André Choulika, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Cellectis, said: “We believe AstraZeneca is the perfect match to Cellectis by providing world-class expertise in the development and the commercialisation of innovative medicines. This collaboration will allow us to leverage our pioneering research in gene editing and cell therapies, as well as our cutting-edge capabilities in manufacturing with the ambition to bring potentially life-saving therapies to patients with unmet medical need.”

In Q4 2023, Cellectis will receive an initial payment of $105m from AstraZeneca, which comprises a $25m upfront cash payment under the terms of a research collaboration agreement and an $80m equity investment.

The initial equity investment of $80m, at $5/share, represents an equity stake of c. 22% in Cellectis. A further $140m equity investment, at $5/share, is expected to close in early 2024 subject to the signing of a final binding agreement following completion of a consultation with the Cellectis employee representative bodies and customary closing conditions including Cellectis shareholders’ approval and regulatory clearances. Post-closing of this second investment, AstraZeneca will hold a total equity stake of c. 44% in Cellectis. AstraZeneca expects to treat its investment in Cellectis as an associate.

Under the terms of the research collaboration, Cellectis is also eligible to receive an investigational new drug (IND) option fee and development, regulatory and sales-related milestone payments, ranging from $70m up to $220m, per each of the 10 candidate products, plus tiered royalties.

AstraZeneca retains an option for a worldwide exclusive license for the candidate products developed under the research collaboration agreement, to be exercised before IND filing.

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