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Novartis to buy CellforCure to boost cell and gene therapy production capacity

Novartis AG said it agreed to buy CELLforCURE, a private French company, to increase its capacity to make complex cell and gene therapies amid competition in the field.

The Swiss pharmaceutical giant plans to purchase CellforCure's share capital from LFB SA, another private French company. The acquisition would bring a cell and gene manufacturing plant in Les Ulis, France, into a network of facilities including sites in Morris Plains, N.J., and Stein, Switzerland.

Financial terms were not disclosed in a Dec. 20 press release from Novartis. The acquisition is subject to usual and customary closing conditions and will be funded through available cash if approved. Novartis expects to close the deal in the first half of 2019.

The proposed acquisition follows Novartis' July 2018 contract with CellforCure to produce CAR-T cell therapies including Kymriah, the first to reach the U.S. market. Kymriah competes with Gilead Sciences Inc.'s Yescarta, and more companies are pursuing development of CAR-T cell therapies.

CellforCure also has contracted with Cellectis SA, a French biopharmaceutical company, to manufacture cell therapies. The press release did not specify the impact of the transaction on any contracts with companies other than Novartis.

Novartis has been shoring up its manufacturing and supply lines as the drugmaker embarks on a strategy relying on pioneering technologies to drive some 20% of revenue within the next five years. Those deals include an agreement with Cellular Biomedicine Group Inc. to produce and supply Kymriah in China, as well as collaborations in Germany and Japan.