Pfizer has signed a cancer immunotherapy pact with Cellectis, with the French biotech banking an $80 million upfront fee.

The deal centres around the development of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) immunotherapies and Cellectis’ technology which uses engineered T-cells from a single donor for use in multiple patients. This represents a different from other autologous approaches, which involve engineering a patient’s own T-cells to target tumour cells.

As well as the upfront fee, Cellectis will get R&D funding and be eligible to get development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments of up to $185 million per Pfizer product, plus tiered royalties. The US behemoth has exclusive rights to develop products against 15 biological targets, while 12 others can be selected by the Paris-based group.

Pfizer is also buying a stake of around 10% in Cellectis through newly-issued shares priced at 9.25 euros each. The latter, which saw its shares soar over 50% to 9.31 euros when the deal was announced, said it expects to open a site in the USA to work more closely with scientists at Pfizer.

Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s R&D chief, said the immuno-oncology collaboration “is built upon Cellectis’ advanced genome editing and cell engineering capability and Pfizer’s cutting-edge biotherapeutic cancer therapy platform,”. He claimed that the pact “creates a world-class partnership designed to deliver a new generation of CAR-T immunotherapies”.

Meantime, Pfizer has also bought MRC Technology of the UK’s melanocortin receptors programme, which includes a set of small molecules. The latter have been developed in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London and financial details were not disclosed.