(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc entered a collaboration with UK biotech Quell Therapeutics potentially worth more than $2 billion to develop cell therapies against major autoimmune diseases.

The companies will develop technologies to tackle type 1 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease, Astra said Friday. 

Astra will pay Quell $85 million upfront with further payments possibly totaling more than $2 billion if certain development and commercial milestones are met.

The deal aims to leverage Quell’s proprietary cell-therapy engineering platform with Astra’s commercial experience. Astra will have the option to take forward successful candidates, while Quell will be responsible for the development and manufacturing of experimental treatments through to the end of the first-in-human clinical study.

Cell therapy involves replacing diseased or damaged cells with new, healthy ones. Quell’s technology reengineers a patient’s T-regulator cells and then reintroduces them into their body, where they might control unwanted immune activity. Scientists are becoming increasingly focused on using cell therapy to halt and reverse disease and potentially cure many life-threatening conditions.  

The agreement marks the first major partnership for Quell, its Chief Executive Officer Iain McGill said in a statement. The company was founded in 2019.

Astra shares rose as much as 0.9% in early London trading.


(Updates with shares, more details on technology starting in second paragraph)

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