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Servier completes its retreat from cell therapy

The sale of remaining rights to Allogene ends acrimony between the two companies.

Yesterday’s sale of Servier’s remaining Europe rights covering CD19-directed allogeneic Car-T therapy assets to Allogene formalises the private French company’s exit from cell therapy. It follows Servier’s sale of its other allogeneic Car-T portfolio back to Precision BioSciences in 2021.

The move comes amid a rush among biotechs with cancer cell therapies, Allogene among them, to develop these for autoimmune diseases, while others, including Precision itself, have discontinued Car-T work entirely. Servier’s own efforts in oncology will now likely be focused on vorasidenib, part of its $1.8bn acquisition of Agios’s cancer portfolio in 2020 and now awaiting US approval.

The Agios business buy was one of Servier’s two big oncology acquisitions of recent years, the other being its 2018 purchase of Shire’s oncology division for $2.4bn in 2018. The latter came about as Takeda acquired the rest of Shire, and it was the Shire oncology portfolio that included the Precision Car-T work that Servier ditched in 2021.

Servier’s Precision pullout was the prelude to yesterday’s Allogene deal, and in fact it was back in September 2022 that the French group served notice to Allogene that it was discontinuing work on CD19 Car-T therapy. But it took another 20 months to iron out a formal handover as Allogene and Servier clashed over terms.


Why this situation even came about dates back 10 years, to a research collaboration covering allogeneic Car-T therapies signed in February 2014 between Servier and the then little-known biotech Cellectis.

This resulted in the lead anti-CD19 therapy UCART19, which Servier acquired from Cellectis globally, sublicensing US rights to Pfizer (which already had a separate collaboration with Cellectis over other allogeneic Car-T therapies). In 2018 Pfizer scrapped allogeneic Car-T work, and the assets it held from Cellectis were licensed on to the newly established Allogene.

Included in this were US rights to UCART19, which Allogene tweaked and developed as ALLO-501 and ALLO-501A, later given the INN cemacabtagene ansegedleucel (cema-cel). With yesterday’s handover of Servier’s remaining Europe rights, Allogene effectively now owns cema-cel globally, as the Servier deal includes a future Japan and China opt-in at no additional cost.


Allogene yesterday played up its newly acquired additional rights as potentially increasing cema-cel’s market opportunity to $9.5bn, versus the earlier $6bn for the US alone. 

In reality, however, the deal is more about ending a row that blew up after Servier discontinued UCART19 in September 2022. According to Allogene’s SEC filings Servier disputed the extent of ongoing cost contributions to the allogeneic programme, and the timeframe that Allogene had to decide whether to exercise an ex-US buyout.

Servier later accused Allogene of refusing to allow an audit of manufacturing costs, and served notice of material breach. In July 2023, after Allogene separately announced the departure of Eric Schmidt as chief financial officer, Servier alleged a second material breach, claiming that it had been overcharged under the companies’ cost-sharing agreement.

Yesterday’s licensing deal comes as the companies agreed to end these disputes, with Servier waiving rights to receive a refund for past costs.


In and out: a summary of Servier’s involvement in two allogeneic Car-T projects

Assets using Talen nucleases
Feb 2014Servier development deal covering Cellectis’s UCART19
Oct/Nov 2015Servier acquires global rights to UCART19, licensing US rights on to Pfizer
Apr 2018Allogene acquires Pfizer’s US rights to UCART19, and starts development as ALLO-501(A)/cema-cel
Sep 2022Servier discontinues its involvement in UCART19 & ALLO-501(A)/ cema-cel
May 2024Allogene formally acquires Servier’s Europe rights to UCART19 & ALLO-501(A)/ cema-cel
Assets using Arcus nucleases
Feb 2016After Baxalta agrees to be bought by Shire, Baxalta licenses Precision BioSciences’ allogeneic Car-T work
Apr 2018Servier buys Shire’s oncology business, including Precision’s Car-T work
Apr 2021Servier sells Car-T assets back to Precision
Aug 2023Precision sells Car-T rights to Imugene

Source: company filings.