University of Central Florida's Cytosen has been acquired in an all-stock deal by Kiadis Pharma, in a transaction potentially worth up to $70m.

Cytosen, a US-based cancer immunotherapy developer spun out of University of Central Florida (UCF), has been acquired by cancer drug developer Kiadis Pharma in an all-stock deal worth up to $70m.

The deal – initially announced in April 2019 and described by UCF as the largest ever biotech acquisition in Central Florida – grants Cytosen’s shareholders a total of 1.5 million shares in Kiadis Pharma each priced at $8.70 as of June 17 and representing a minimum acquisition price of $13.1m.

Shareholders will also have an option to buy a further 159,778 shares in total, and will receive an additional 267,000 shares once certain formalities in the transaction have been completed.

A further 5.9 million shares will become actionable should Cytosen’s pipeline meet clinical development and regulatory milestones, meaning the transaction could reach approximately $70m in total.

Founded in 2014, Cytosen is working on immuno-oncological therapies underpinned by natural killer (NK) cells – an immune system lymphocyte with innate cancer-fighting properties – that have been extracted from a blood-matching family donor.

The NK cells are enhanced ex vivo through Cytosen’s nanoparticle processing platform to bolster their cytotoxicity, and would be administered in combination with blood cell-yielding stem cells known as haematopoietic stem cells.

Cytosen’s pipeline is led by CSDT002-NK, which is due to begin US clinical testing in 2020. Kiadis Pharma will continue advancing the portfolio in combination with its own immuno-oncology program, ATIR101, which exploits immune system T cells selected to reduce the risk of graft-versus-host-disease.

The spinout started out at UCF’s Business Incubator under the direction of co-founders including Alicja Copik, a cancer researcher at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences.

Cytosen’s NK cell platform is also partly based on research licensed from University of Tennessee’s Research Foundation in 2017. Details of the spinout’s funding history could not be ascertained.