AstraZeneca has agreed to invest $245m in French biotechnology company Cellectis to accelerate the development of next-generation therapeutics in areas including oncology, immunology, and rare diseases.

According to the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will use Cellectis’ patented gene editing technologies and manufacturing expertise to develop new cell and gene therapy candidate products.

The Anglo-Swedish pharma company has been granted exclusive access to 25 genetic targets, from which up to 10 candidate products can be potentially developed.

Prior to filing an investigational new drug (IND) to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), AstraZeneca will have the option to exercise its worldwide exclusive license rights over the candidate products.

AstraZeneca Rare Disease Alexion CEO Marc Dunoyer said: “The differentiated capabilities Cellectis has in gene editing and manufacturing complement our in-house expertise and investments made in the past year.

“AstraZeneca continues to advance our ambition in cell therapy for oncology and autoimmune diseases as well as in genomic medicine, which has the potential to be transformative for patients with rare diseases.”

AstraZeneca has agreed to pay the French firm an initial payment of $105m in Q4 2023.

This payment consists of a $80m equity investment and a $25m advance cash payment made as part of a research cooperation agreement.

The initial equity investment of $80m, at $5/share, is equal to an equity stake of about 22% in Cellectis.

An additional $140m in equity investment, valued at $5 per share, is anticipated to close in the first half of 2024, subject to certain conditions.

Following the completion of this second transaction, AstraZeneca will own approximately 44% of Cellectis’ shares.

Additionally, the biotechnology company is also eligible to receive tiered royalties, an IND option fee and development, regulatory and sales-related milestone payments, ranging from $70m up to $220m, per each of the 10 candidate products, plus tiered royalties.

Cellectis CEO André Choulika said: “We believe AstraZeneca is the perfect match to Cellectis by providing world-class expertise in the development and the commercialisation of innovative medicines.

“This collaboration will allow us to leverage our pioneering research in gene editing and cell therapies, as well as our cutting-edge capabilities in manufacturing with the ambition to bring potentially life-saving therapies to patients with unmet medical needs.”