Bayer strengthens cell and gene therapies with BlueRock acquisition

By Murielle Gonzalez | Published: 9-Sep-2019

BlueRock Therapeutics is a privately-held biotech company headquartered in the US

Bayer has acquired US-based BlueRock Therapeutics in a move to strengthen its operations to the cell and gene therapy marketplace.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, BlueRock Therapeutics, a privately held biotechnology company focused on developing engineered cell therapies in the fields of neurology, cardiology and immunology, using a proprietary induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform.

“This acquisition marks a major milestone on our path towards a leading position in cell therapy,” said Stefan Oelrich, Member of the Board of Management, Bayer AG and President Pharmaceuticals Division.

“In line with our strategy to ramp up our investments in technologies with breakthrough innovation potential, we have decided to build our cell therapy pipeline based on BlueRock Therapeutics’ industry-leading iPSC platform. Ultimately, we are joining forces to deliver new treatment options for medical needs that are still unmet today.”

Cell and gene portfolio

BlueRock Therapeutics’ portfolio of cell therapies is currently focused on neurology, cardiology and immunology with a lead programme in Parkinson’s disease expected to enter the clinic by the end of 2019.

Among neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson's disease is the fastest-growing in prevalence, disability and mortality.

The primary and most debilitating symptom of Parkinson’s disease is a progressive loss of motor control. Stem cell therapy could re-innervate the human brain and reverse degenerative disease, potentially restoring motor function to more than seven million patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease globally.

“This transaction is not only the foundation for an iPSC-based cell therapy portfolio but also a manifestation of a successful innovation strategy by our Leaps unit to create biotechnological solutions that have truly transformative potential and may cure patients in life-threatening conditions one day,” said Kemal Malik, Bayer Board member for Innovation.

This transaction is not only the foundation for an iPSC-based cell therapy portfolio but also a manifestation of a successful innovation strategy

With this transaction, Bayer will own full rights to BlueRock Therapeutics’ CELL+GENE platform, including a broad intellectual property portfolio and associated technology platform including proprietary iPSC technology, gene engineering and cell differentiation capabilities.

In addition to its current focus, BlueRock Therapeutics’ platform brings the opportunity to extend to other therapeutic areas beyond the current development programs. To preserve the entrepreneurial culture as an essential pillar for nurturing successful innovation, BlueRock Therapeutics’ will remain an independent company operating on an arms-length basis.

Multimillion-dollar investment

Following a 2016 joint venture with Versant Ventures to establish BlueRock Therapeutics, Bayer will acquire the remaining stake for approximately US$240 million in cash to be paid upfront at closing and an additional $360 million payable upon achievement of pre-defined development milestones.

With Bayer currently holding 40.8% stake, the investment corresponds to a total company value of BlueRock Therapeutics of approximately USD 1 billion. The closing of the transaction is expected during the third quarter of 2019.

Emile Nuwaysir, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, BlueRock Therapeutics, commented: “We have built a premier cell therapy platform at BlueRock Therapeutics, with industry-leading R&D, process development and manufacturing capabilities. With the expertise and support of Bayer, we will be even better positioned to pursue the discovery, development and commercialization of revolutionary new cell therapies for patients suffering from diseases previously thought of as intractable.”

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