The new strategy of Novartis to acquire Gamida Cell

The deal for the sale of Gamida Cell to Novartis is back on. Instead of a huge exit in hundreds of millions of dollars, this time the deal is in multiple stages, starting with an injection of several dozen millions of dollars into the company.

Gamida Cell, developer of a stem-cell treatment for blood cancer, announced today that it has signed an investment and option agreement with Novartis. According to the agreement, Novartis will invest $35 million in Gamida Cell and in return will receive 15% equity and an option to fully acquire Gamida Cell. The option is exercisable for a limited period of time following achievement of certain milestones connected to the development of NiCord, anticipated to be met during 2015. Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.

Gamida Cell president and CEO Dr. Yael Margolin said:

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“The investment and option agreement announced today demonstrates Novartis’ belief in the potential of Gamida Cell’s platform technology, product pipeline and team. Novartis is a leading pharmaceutical company with a declared commitment to further expand and develop its pipeline of cell therapy products. This, combined with the breadth of its resources and experience, positions Novartis perfectly for an alliance with Gamida Cell.

Gamida Cell is currently engaged in a Phase I/II study of NiCord as an investigational therapeutic treatment for hematological malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma. In this study NiCord is being used as the sole stem cell source. NiCord is derived from a single cord blood unit and expanded and enriched with stem cells using Gamida Cell’s proprietary NAM technology. The current Phase I/II single cord study of NiCord®, the first of its kind, is soon to be followed by a Phase III study planned to begin at the end of 2015.

Gamida Cell is 30.8 percent owned by Elbit Medical Technologies and other shareholders as Clal Biotechnology Industries, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Amgen, Denali Ventures, Auriga Ventures and Israel Healthcare Venture. Following completion of the deal and prior to the exercise of the option, Elbit Medical’s stake in Gamida Cell would drop to 24.7 percent.

In March, Elbit Medical said it had received a buyout offer from an unnamed global pharmaceutical firm identified as Novartis. But in May, it said the talks had been terminated. Now Novartis is back on the acquisition game.

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