Shares in Tiziana Life Sciences (NASDAQ:TLSA, LON:TILS) raced 20% higher in the opening minutes of trading on Wall Street after the group inked an exclusive licensing agreement with Precision BioSciences (NASDAQ:DTIL).
The tie-up takes it into the exciting arena of CAR-T therapy with the pair looking to use Tiziana’s foralumab monoclonal antibody (mAb) to enhance the next generation of cancer treatments.
The stock jumped 33 cents at the open to US$1.98.
Zacks Small-Cap Research has believes that might just be the start of the story and reckons the US traded ADR shares may be worth US$7.50 each.
The move into CAR-T, or chimeric antigen receptors cell therapy, seems particularly well-timed, and major acquisitions by Celgene (now owned by Bristol Myers Squibb) and Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) underscore the interest in this emerging area of biotechnology.
But while a number of these new therapies used to treat blood-borne cancers have been clinically successful, relapse rates remain high, which continues to limit widespread use.
Precision is taking a new approach to development with its allogeneic CAR-Ts and gene correction therapies using its ARCUS genome editing platform to overcome some of the challenges and broaden usage to solid tumours.
The US firm is hoping to use foralumab, Tiziana’s clinical-stage fully-human mAb, as a lymphodepletion or ‘tolerising’ agent to improve the long-term success of CAR-T in cancer treatment.
Under the terms of the agreement, Precision will be responsible for the development, commercialisation, and costs for use of foralumab. Tiziana will receive an upfront sum along with certain milestone and royalty payments.
Zacks’ research noted: “Amounts for upfronts, milestones and royalties were not disclosed; however, some of the milestones are payable upon the start of a phase II and phase III study and upfront payments will be received shortly after execution of the deal.”
It is hard to underestimate the interest in and the money being spent on CAR-T therapies with treatments such Kymriah, Yescarta, Tecartus and Breyanzi now reaching the marketplace.
Analysts estimate around U$4bn has been poured into this arena, with a further US$2bn coming from industry partnerships.
M&A activity underscores the interest in CAR-T with Celgene splashing out US$9bn for Juno Therapeutics in 2018 (before being swallowed by Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY), and Gilead acquiring of Kite Pharma for US$11.9bn.
Precision, capitalised at US$815mln, represents the new wave of companies coming through, alongside Allogen Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ALLO), which is worth US$3.5bn.
As well as foralumab, which is being developed for multiple indications including Covid, Tiziana is developing two other key technologies – milciclib for solid tumours and TZLS-501 for chronic inflammation.
Zacks in its note restating its US$7.50 price target said: “Our model applies a 15% probability of ultimate approval and commercialization for the portfolio of assets including foralumab and milciclib. The model includes contributions from the United States and global developed markets.”