The CAR-T Space is Heating Up, Who Could Be the Next Target?

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CAR-T treatment is short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy. CAR-T treatment removes a person’s cells from the body, reengineers them, and then puts the cells back in the body, where they can attack cancer cells. Large numbers of the CAR- T cells are grown in the laboratory and given to the patient by infusion. In short, the person’s own genetically engineered cells are the therapy.

Due to the increased success of CAR-T therapies, M&A activity in the space has picked up. The two most notable acquisitions being Celegene’s (CELG) purchase of Juno Therapeutic for $9 billion, and Gilead’s (GILD) acquisition of Kite Pharma for $12 billion. The increased M&A has also lead to more funding for CAR-T companies, as investors look for the next Juno or Kite.

With that in mind, here’s a brief look at some of the companies operating in the CAR-T space that could become the next target for big pharma.

Atossa Genetics (ATOS) is a clinical stage company that develops novel therapeutics and delivery methods to treat breast cancer and other breast conditions. Atossa’s Intraductal Catheter Technology (ICT) is based on the cutting edge CAR-T technology. In ICT, an individual’s immune cells are removed and re-engineered to attack the cancer cells. This is distinguished from traditional CAR-T therapies like those offered by Juno and Kite, where the cells are put back into the person’s bloodstream via infusion in hopes that the immune cells will locate the cancer cells and attack them. Instead,  ICT injects the new immune cells directly into the solid tumor in the breast. The theory behind ICT is to introduce a large amount of immune cells directly into a small environment (i.e. the tumor) in order to prevent systemic side effects throughout the patient’s. CAR-T therapies offered by Juno and Kite, which focus on cancers in the bloodstream such as lymphoma and leukemia, have not been as successful with solid tumor cancers such as breast cancer. ICT hopes to create a similar efficacy to CAR-T therapies with a better side effect profile.

In addition to Atossa there’s Autolus Limited, a company that develops T-cell therapies that utilize advanced cell programming and manufacturing technologies. It has a development-stage pipeline of products for the treatment of haematological malignancies and solid tumors. As of June 201 Autolus has raised a total of $323 million in outside financing.

CARsgen Therapeutics, Ltd., is a clinical-stage immunotherapy company that develops and commercializes CAR-T therapeutics for treating cancers. It’s CAR-T Technology directs T cells to recognize cancer cells based on expression of specific cell surface proteins to treat solid and hematologic tumors. In March 2018, CARsgen announced its completion of Pre-C financing and receipt of $60 million equity investment from new and existing investors.

JW Therapeutics is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company founded by Juno Therapeutics and WuXi AppTec Group in 2016. In March 2018, JW Therapeutics completed a $90 million Series A financing lead by a consortium of leading global investors.

Finally, Medisix is a Singapore-based immune engineering start-up developing novel cellular therapies to address T-cell malignancies. Its programs utilize proprietary immune engineering approaches that enable T-cell leukemias and lymphomas to be targeted with cell therapy. It announced the close of a $20 million Series A financing on May 14, 2018.

Based on the increase in M&A activity and institutional funding it appears as though big pharma and investors are betting that CAR-T could become the next big thing in biotech. Investors seeking exposure to CAR-T space might want to take a look at Atossa. It’s one of our favorites.  

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Ross Silver is the CEO and founder of Sylva International. Mr. Silver is a Registered Investment Advisor with over 15 years experience in equity research, investment banking, and asset management. Mr. Silver served as a consultant for the National Institutes of Health and holds a Series 65 securities license.

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