Cardio3 BioSciences Moves Into Oncology With U.S. Deal

Cardio3 BioSciences SA, a Belgian developer of experimental stem-cell treatments, agreed to buy the OnCyte oncology division of privately held Celdara Medical in the U.S. for $10 million upfront plus potential milestone payments.

OnCyte has three CAR T-cell therapy products in development and an allogeneic T-cell platform targeting a broad range of cancer indications, Cardio3 said today in a statement. CAR, or chimeric antigen receptor, treatment involves removing T-cells, a body’s defenders that attack invasive bacteria and viruses, and reprogramming them to hunt down and kill cancers.

Cardio3 will pay Celdara $6 million in cash and $4 million in new shares for OnCyte upfront, and as much as $92 million in future development and regulatory milestone payments, of which $50 million is for lead product CM-CS1. Celdara is also eligible for up to $80 million in sales-related payments should net sales exceed $1 billion, and royalties of 6 percent to 10 percent.

The acquisition marks a shift in strategy for Cardio3, whose key product is a stem-cell treatment for heart failure in phase III clinical studies. With the purchase, Cardio3 joins a growing number of pharmaceutical companies drawn to the therapy including Novartis AG and Juno Therapeutics Inc. Cardio3 says OnCyte’s CAR technology uses NK cell receptors, targeting ligands present in both liquid and solid tumors.

“It’s our first foray into an area that is of very high interest; at the same time we are building on known ground,” Cardio3 Chief Executive Officer Christian Homsy said in an interview. “It opens a new reach, a new broad area of growth for the company that is of very high value to us and our shareholders.”

Biggest Shareholders

The move has the backing of four of its biggest shareholders including Tolefi, which holds 32 percent, meaning that investors holding 65 percent of the company’s stock are behind the acquisition, Homsy said.

The phase 1 study with the lead program CM-CS1 in hematologic malignancies has approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and will start this quarter, with the results due in the second quarter of 2016.

Cardio3, which had 36 million euros ($43 million) of cash on Sept. 30, has the means to finance the phase 1 development of the lead product and will assess further funding needs in the coming years, Homsy said.

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