By acquiring Juno Therapeutics (JUNO) for $9 billion, Celgene (CELG) is making a bullish bet on genetically engineered cells known as CAR-Ts becoming a cornerstone of cancer treatment. The same strategic reasoning compelled Gilead Sciences (GILD) to purchase Kite Pharma for $11 billion last year.
There are no guarantees these bets will pay off. Currently, two CAR-T therapies, including Kite’s Yescarta, are approved to treat a relatively small set of blood cancer patients who have run out of other medical options. The early commercial launches of these CAR-Ts have been slowed by their high cost and the complexities of manufacturing and reimbursement.