AstraZeneca Invests $245 Million in French Biotech Cellectis

02.11.2023 - Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca entered into a collaboration and investment agreement with Cellectis, a French clinical-stage biotechnology company, to accelerate the development of therapeutics across oncology, immunology and rare diseases.

AstraZeneca will use Cellectis’ proprietary gene editing technologies and manufacturing capabilities, to design novel cell and gene therapy products. As part of the agreement, AstraZeneca has been granted exclusive rights to 25 genetic targets, from which up to ten candidate products could be explored for development.

Marc Dunoyer, AstraZeneca’s chief strategy officer and CEO of 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, CEO of Paris, France-based Cellectis, said: “We believe AstraZeneca is the perfect match to Cellectis by providing world-class expertise in the development and the commercialization 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 the past year, AstraZeneca has enhanced its own capabilities in cell and genomic therapy through several collaborations and investments.

The agreement foresees an initial payment of $105 million from AstraZeneca to Cellectis in the fourth quarter of 2023, which includes an upfront payment of $25 million under a research collaboration agreement and an equity investment of $80 million.

According to AstraZeneca, the initial equity investment of $80 million, at $5/share, represents an equity stake of about 22% in Cellectis. A further $140 million 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, the partners said. Post-closing of this second investment, AstraZeneca will hold a total equity stake of about 44% in Cellectis.

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 $70 million up to $220 million, 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.