Florida biotech firm aimed at cancer sells for $70 million

Alicja Copik, a researcher at the University of Central Florida's Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, developed biotechnology being commercialized by CytoSen. Photo courtesy of UCF

ORLANDO, Fla., June 7 (UPI) — Florida company CytoSen, which developed a new biotech approach to cancer therapies, has sold for about $70 million to Netherlands-based Kiadis Pharma.

CytoSen was spun out of the University of Central Florida in 2014 and grew over the past few years in UCF’s incubator location in Winter Springs. The university is calling it the largest biotech purchase in central Florida history.

“It’s important that the technology is maturing so it can benefit patients. It has the potential to really benefit cancer patients, leukemia specifically, and those with other diseases,” said Robert Igarashi, chief science officer and co-founder of CytoSen.

The technology uses a nanoparticle, or a cell that has been engineered to grow and strengthen so-called “natural killer” cells in the body’s immune system, said co-founder Alicja Copik, a researcher at UCF’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. The natural killer cells attack cancer cells.

Igarashi told UPI that the CytoSen therapy has been in limited use at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and at the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Treatment and Research Hospital in Houston.

According to the company, terms of the sale include an upfront consideration of 1.94 million shares of Kiadis stock. Once the company accomplishes six clinical development and regulatory milestones, CytoSen’s owners will receive another 5.82 million shares. As of June 5, Kiadis’ shares were trading at 7.80 euros, or $8.81.

UCF’s Research Foundation held just over 1 percent of CytoSen shares. The foundation owns the patents and patent applications that were licensed exclusively to CytoSen, and it will receive royalty payments based on percentage of net sales of licensed products.

CytoSen plans to continue to operate out of the Winter Springs incubator.


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