Could Novartis Be Gamida-Cell’s Mysterious Buyer?

Novartis

An Israeli news source claims that Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS) is in advanced talks to buy Israeli stem-cell developer Gamida-Cell Ltd. for a rumored $600 million. The payments will be broken up into one downpayment (comprising millions of dollars) and then several hundred million dollars more for product milestones in Gamid-Cell’s research and development.

Elbit Medical Technologies, another Israeli company that currently holds a 30.8 percent stake in Gamida, says that the offer includes “significant immediate payment and additional future payments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to Reuters.

Elbit Technologies declined to comment on the Globes English report about whether Gamida’s buyer is, in fact, Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG. The offer was received on March 7, according to a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange by another Gamida shareholder, Clal Biotechnology Industries, which owns about 22 percent of Gamida.

A press release from Elbit said Tuesday that no definitive agreement has been signed and that “there is no certainty that the negotiation of such non-binding proposal will lead to the conclusion of a definitive agreement or that a transaction will be completed.”

Before the talks began, Gamida-Cell had plans for an initial public offering in the U.S. marketplace. That dream hasn’t been wholly abandoned, Globes English reports, but the talks with Novartis are at a very late stage, and the estimated valuation of the IPO is less than that of an acquisition by Novartis.

Gamida is currently developing products to treat a number of different conditions, including blood cancers and tumors. Currently, Gamida’s StemEx treatment is being evaluated in patients with high-risk leukemia and lymphoma.

The company’s first product was developed in partnership with Teva Pharmaceuticals, another Gamida shareholder, but retroactive changes to U.S. clinical trial requirements rendered the product’s development uneconomical. The company is now developing a similar, improved product in the same field on its own, per Globes English. That product is currently undergoing clinical trials and is expected to demonstrate improved efficacy.

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