Photo Credit: Courtesy Kite Pharma
Kite Pharma founder Dr. Arieh Belldegrun

Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Nasdaq: GILD) and Kite Pharma, Inc. (Nasdaq: KITE) announced on Monday that they have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Gilead will acquire Kite for $180.00 per share in cash. The transaction, which values Kite at approximately $11.9 billion, was unanimously approved by both the Gilead and Kite Boards of Directors and is anticipated to close in the fourth quarter of 2017. The transaction will provide opportunities for diversification of revenues, and is expected to be neutral to earnings by year three and accretive thereafter.

Kite is an industry leader in the emerging field of cell therapy, which uses a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. The company has developed engineered cell therapies that express either a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) or an engineered T cell receptor (TCR), depending on the type of cancer.

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Kite’s most advanced therapy candidate, axicabtagene ciloleucel (axi-cel), is a CAR T therapy currently under priority review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is expected to be the first to market as a treatment for refractory aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which includes diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), transformed follicular lymphoma (TFL) and primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL).

The technology was developed by Prof. Zelig Ashchar of the Department of Immunology at the Weizmann Institute’s Faculty of Biology and Dr. Steven Rosenberg of the American National Cancer Institute. Dr. Arieh Belldegrun, who founded the company, holds 5.7% of the shares of Kite Pharma at a value of $ 590 million, while the most prominent Israeli shareholders are Menorah Mivtachim, which holds a 2.1% stake in the company, valued at $222 million, and the Migdal Group, which holds shares worth $26 million.

Dr. Belldegrun was born in Israel. He received his medical degree from the Hadassah Medical Center at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1974, and conducted his post-graduate studies at the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1979. He completed his Urologic Surgery residency at Harvard Medical School in 1985, and his Surgical Oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in 1988. He is certified by the American Board of Urology, and is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons. Belldegrun is the Director of the UCLA Institute of Urologic Oncology, Professor of Urology, and Chief of the Division of Urologic Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine.

The FDA has set a target action date of November 29, 2017 under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA). A marketing authorization application (MAA) has also been filed for axi-cel for the treatment of relapsed/refractory DLBCL, TFL and PMBCL with the European Medicines Agency (EMA), representing the first submission in Europe for a CAR T therapy. Approval in Europe is expected in 2018. Kite has additional candidates in clinical trials in both hematologic cancers and solid tumors, including KITE-585, a CAR T therapy candidate that targets BCMA expressed in multiple myeloma.

“The acquisition of Kite establishes Gilead as a leader in cellular therapy and provides a foundation from which to drive continued innovation for people with advanced cancers,” said John F. Milligan, PhD, Gilead’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “The field of cell therapy has advanced very quickly, to the point where the science and technology have opened a clear path toward a potential cure for patients. We are greatly impressed with the Kite team and what they have accomplished, and share their belief that cell therapy will be the cornerstone of treating cancer. Our similar cultures and histories of driving rapid innovation in order to bring more effective and safer products to as many patients as possible make this an excellent strategic fit.”

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