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Why America’s Latest Commercial Gene Therapy Could Be a Big Money-Maker

October 19, 2017

The FDA has approved its second CAR-T cell therapy. This kind of treatment, which reprograms the DNA of a patient's T immune cells so that they attack cancer, has shown huge early success in trials and is widely anticipated to change the way many variants of the disease are dealt with in the future.

The lucky recipient of the new license to sell is Kite Pharma, and the therapy, called Yescarta, has been developed to treat specific types of the blood cancer non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It's particularly heartening news for the pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences, which put up a cool $11.9 billion to acquire Kite Pharma in August.

Second place is sometimes said to be the first loser. That would seem especially so here, given that the first treatment to be approved, earlier this year, was Novartis's Kymriah—another CAR-T therapy that targets a kind of childhood blood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

But consider this: even though both therapies treat blood cancer, Novartis's can theoretically treat around 600 people a year, while Kite's could benefit as many as 7,500. At $373,000 a time for a treatment of Yescarta, that could prove very lucrative indeed.

Deep Dive

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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