Charles River boosts cell therapy offering with $38m Cellero buy

The addition of cellular product supplier Cellero will complement last year’s acquisition of HemaCare says Charles River Laboratories.

In December 2019, contract research organization (CRO) Charles River Laboratories expanded its services into the cell therapy space through the $380 million acquisition of HemaCare. The deal brought Charles River human primary cells as well as a core offering of leukapheresis – the separation of white cells from blood samples.

Fresh from the purchase, Charles River said it was eyeing up further bolt-ons in the cell and gene therapy space and this month the firm signed a definitive agreement to acquire cellular product provider Cellero, formerly known as Key Biologics and Astarte Biologics, for $38 million.

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“The addition of Cellero will enhance Charles River’s unique, comprehensive solutions for the high-growth cell therapy market, strengthening its ability to help accelerate clients’ critical programs from basic research and proof-of-concept to regulatory approval and commercialization,” Charles River said in an SEC filing.

“It will also expand Charles River’s access to high-quality, human-derived biomaterials with Cellero’s donor sites in both the eastern and western United States.”

The company added Cellero will complement the HemaCare business through the supply of critical biomaterials, including a human-derived primary cell types to support the discovery, development, and manufacture of cell therapies.

“Following the acquisition of Cellero, the Company expects to generate revenue growth for human-derived cellular products, including HemaCare, of at least 30% annually over the next five years, beginning in 2021.”

Commentators were quick to applaud the acquisition, with David Windley, equity analyst at Jefferies, pointing out that though the deal was relatively small it “complements HemaCare in supplying biomaterials and broadens its geographical exposure to the eastern US.”

He noted that the Cellero deal broke Charles River’s self-imposed M&A freeze – as part of its COVID-19 measures  – and added “management has the appetite and ample cash on hand ($402 million) to support more all-cash deal-making in this range.”

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