A two-year-old company developing molecular “logic” for cancer treatment has been snapped up for $175 million by Gilead Sciences amid a surge of interest in ways to battle disease using engineered immune cells.
The pricey acquisition of Cell Design Labs, a startup that’s produced no drugs, signals an ongoing acquisition frenzy around one of cancer medicine’s most promising approaches.
Cell Design Labs, founded by University of California, San Francisco, synthetic biologist Wendell Lim, creates “programs” to install inside T cells, the killer cells of the immune system, giving them new abilities.
Beginning in August, the U.S. approved two novel treatments in which a person’s T cells are genetically reprogrammed to seek and destroy cancer cells.
Known as “CAR-T,” the treatments are both revolutionary and hugely expensive. A single dose is priced at around $500,000 but often results in a cure. Gilead quickly paid $12 billion to acquire Kite Pharma, maker of one of those treatments.