BlueRock Therapeutics, a cell therapies developer was established through a joint venture by Bayer and Versant Ventures in 2016.
Bayer, which currently holds BlueRock’s 40.8%, will pay Versant $240m (€214.4m) in cash to acquire the remaining shares and an additional $360m upon achievement of development milestones, raising the total value of the company to $1bn.
Bayer builds on BlueRock’s foundation
BlueRock develops cell therapies in the fields of neurology, cardiology and immunology, using a proprietary induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform called Cell+Gene.
A lead program developed through the platform for the treatment of Parkinson's is expected to enter the clinic by the end of 2019.
Stefan Oelrich, member of Bayer’s Board of Management said in a statement that the company has decided to build its cell therapy pipeline based on Cell+Gene, aiming to climb up in the booming cell therapies market.
Emile Nuwaysir, BlueRock's CEO told us that iPSC platform “enables a new treatment modality in diseases previously deemed intractable,” by engineering healthy donor cells to create PSCs as a ‘universal’ source for cell therapies development.
According to the Nuwaysir, Cell+Gene has two distinct advantages over other platforms:
• First, it can direct the differentiation of these cells into almost any cell type in the human body, recapitulating natural developmental processes. Through different exclusive licenses, BlueRock has access to methods for the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells into neurons (dopaminergic and other types), cardiomyocytes or other cell types of the brain, heart and immune system and create cell therapy product candidates with high potency, purity, and specificity at a commercial scale.
• Second, the platform allows to engineer these authentic cells to avoid recognition and thus rejection by the patient’s immune system or to enable the cells to deliver a payload of choice locally with the possibility of low or no systemic toxicity. These therapies are able to locally deliver a high regional concentration of payload with the possibility of no systemic toxicity. Cells can be engineered to perform a broad range of functionalities including protein production, antibody or cytokine secretion, or local enzyme replacement.
Additionally, stem cell therapy developed with Cell+Gene has the potential to re-innervate the brain and reverse degenerative disease restoring motor function to patients with Parkinson's disease.
BlueRock's CEO told us that BlueRock will continue to explore the potential of the platform in other therapeutic areas further to the ongoing development programs.
Following the closing of the transaction, which is expected by September 2019, Bayer will own full rights to Cell+Gene platform, including the broad intellectual property portfolio.
According to the company's CEO, BlueRock will continue to operate independently, without currently planned changes in its management team.