Pharma Industry Accelerating Investment into Cell Therapy Companies


Without a doubt, the cell therapy industry is coming of age. In addition to growing numbers of cell therapy clinical trials, there are 17 cell therapy products that have been approved worldwide and 140+ cell therapy companies competing in the global marketplace. These metrics are extremely important, because they indicate that the market for cell therapy products is expanding.


However, one of the most telling trends within the industry is a growing interest among “big pharma” in cell therapy companies. At its core, this is a strategic way for pharmaceutical companies to diversity their product development pipeline.


Recently, the pharmaceutical industry has been accelerating investment into cell therapy companies. Examples of this include:


  • Astellas Pharma funded a development program with Universal Cells to utilize its Universal Donor Cell Technology in October 2017;
  • HitachiChemical bought PCT cell therapy (CDMO) in May 2017;
  • FUJIFILMpurchased a 10% equity stake in Cynata Therapeutics in January 2017;
  • Bayer AG spun offBlueRock Therapeutics with funding of $225 million in December 2016;
  • Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticalsacquired Stratatech Corporation in August 2016;
  • Takeda Pharmaceutical Company andTiGenix in July 5, 2016;
  • JCR Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. and Mesoblast in December 3, 2015;
  • AMAG Pharmaceuticalsbought Cord Blood Registry (cord blood bank) for $700 million in June of 2015;
  • Celgenetook a $45 million minority stake in Mesoblast in April 2015 Novartis has an equity stake in Gamida Cell Ltd (invested $35 million in 2014, $5 million more in 2015, and has been in talks about buying Gamida Cell for $600 million);
  • FUJIFILMbought Cellular Dynamics International (CDI), the world’s leading iPSC company, for $307 million in April 2015;
  • Johnson & Johnsonbet $12.5 million on Capricor Therapeutics cell therapy program for cardiovascular applications (CAP-1002) through its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, in January 2014;
  • PerkinElmerbought ViaCord (an umbilical cord blood bank) for $300 million in October 2007;
  • Teva Pharmaceuticalsentered a joint venture (JV) with Gamida Cell Ltd (2005).


Much of this partnering activity has been supported by accelerated regulatory pathways that have been passed in major healthcare markets worldwide, including the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. In Japan, the government passed the “Act on the Safety on Regenerative Medicine” and making revisions to the “Pharmaceutical and Medical device Act” in late 2014, giving a major boost to cell therapy development within Asia. Additionally, the EU has a program for product acceleration – the Adaptive Pathways.