Novartis in advanced talks to buy Gamida-Cell

The stem cell developer could be acquired for up to $600 million.

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; LSE: NOV; SWX: NOVZ) is in advanced talks to acquire stem cell treatments developer Gamida-Cell Ltd. at a value of up to $600 million. Under the terms of the deal, Novartis will pay several hundred millions dollars in a down payment for the company, and several hundred millions dollars more in milestones for the company's products, for a total of up to $600 million.

Clal Biotechnology Industries Ltd. (TASE: CBI) owns 22% of Gamida-Cell and Elbit Medical Technologies Ltd. (TASE:EMTC) owns 31%. The two companies' parent companies will also benefit from the sale. Clal Biotech is controlled by Len Blavatnik's Access Industries Inc., and Elbit Medical Technologies is controlled by Elbit Imaging Ltd. (Nasdaq: EMITF; TASE: EMIT), which was seized earlier this year by York Capital Management LLC and Davidson Kempner Capital Management LLC from Mordechay Zisser.

Although the acquisition talks are in a very advanced stage, Gamida-Cell has not wholly abandoned plans for an IPO on Wall Street. However, the valuation for the IPO is much less than the reported value of the acquisition, and that will be likely be the preferred option.

Gamida Cell has proprietary technology for growing the number and density of stem cells within a specific blood sample. This capability could be a basis for all stem cell activity. The company seeks to enhance umbilical cord blood donations for implants to cure blood cancer in adults. Currently, umbilical cord blood can only be used for implant in people weighing less than 45 kilograms.

Gamida-Cell's first product was jointly developed with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE: TEVA; TASE: TEVA), but the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) retroactively tightened clinical trial requirements rendering the product's development uneconomical. The company is developing what it says is an improved product in the same field. The product is undergoing clinical trials, and because of its expected improved efficacy, justifies the high development cost. Teva has no rights to this product, making the deal with Novartis possible.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on March 18, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

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