Over-capacity concern drives Bellicum to sell Texas CAR-T plant for $15m

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has acquired the 60,000 square-foot Houston facility and entered into an agreement to manufacture cellular therapies for Bellicum Pharmaceuticals.

The $15 million (€13.8 million) sale, first announced in January, went through this week and sees MD Anderson Cancer Center take over operations at the Houston, Texas site less than a year after Bellicum completed the buildout of the manufacturing space.

The sale took place following an evaluation of Bellicum’s manufacturing strategy as it looks to lower its operating expenses, which contributed to a loss from operations of $87 million in 2019.

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“The facility includes capacity far in excess of the Company’s anticipated current and near-term manufacturing needs and management decided to seek a partner for the facility with the goal of reducing the Company’s costs while maintaining dedicated cell therapy manufacturing capacity to support the Company’s product candidates,” Bellicum said in its 2019 annual 10-K filing.

“The primary reason for the disposal is to reduce the Company’s fixed operating expenses by transitioning from an in-house clinical supply manufacturer to a third-party manufacturer.”

As such, Bellicum has inked a preferred supply agreement with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, which will produce Bellicum’s chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) candidates from the plant, while also manufacturing its own internal programs.

Bellicum’s CAR-T and CAR-NK (Natural Killer) therapies are based on the firm’s GoCAR technology platform, which aims to enhance effector cell proliferation and functional persistence by resisting exhaustion and driving production of immunomodulatory cytokines, overpowering the inhibitory signals from the tumor microenvironment. Lead CAR-T candidate BPX-601 is in clinical proof of concept studies for pancreatic cancer.

The firm has also got an allogeneic polyclonal T-cell candidate – Rivo-cel (BPX-501) – in early-stage development for pediatric leukemias, lymphomas, and inherited blood disorders, and is actively seeking a strategic partner to move it forward.

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