Regeneron and bluebird bio Announce Collaboration to Discover, Develop and Commercialize New Cell Therapies for Cancer
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and bluebird bio, Inc. announced a collaboration to apply their respective technology platforms to the discovery, development and commercialization of novel immune cell therapies for cancer. The collaborators will specifically leverage Regeneron’s VelociSuite platform technologies for the discovery and characterization of fully human antibodies as well as T cell receptors (TCRs) directed against tumor-specific proteins and peptides, and bluebird bio will contribute its field-leading expertise in gene transfer and cell therapy.
“Like Regeneron, bluebird is a science-focused company looking to push the limits of what novel technologies can do in drug discovery and development,” said George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron. “We believe that the tremendous synergies between Regeneron’s proven technologies and bluebird’s toolbox of advanced cell and gene therapy technologies create a promising opportunity to help people with cancer by developing innovative new treatments. This collaboration adds yet another dimension to our rapidly advancing portfolio of immuno-oncology candidates and combination approaches.”
“The collaboration with Regeneron complements bluebird bio’s growing immuno-oncology development portfolio, which includes clinical and pre-clinical CAR T and T cell receptor programs,” said Philip Gregory, D.Phil., Chief Scientific Officer of bluebird bio. “With Regeneron’s proven targeting technologies, in combination with our deep expertise in cell biology and vector technology, as well as clinical experience with leading CAR T cell drug products, we hope to rapidly advance novel cellular therapies with the potential to transform the lives of people with cancer.”
The collaborators have jointly selected six initial targets and will equally share the costs of research and development up to the point of submitting an Investigational New Drug (IND) application. Additional targets may be selected over the five-year research collaboration term. When an IND is submitted for a potential cell therapy product, Regeneron will have the right to opt-in to a co-development/co-commercialization arrangement for certain collaboration targets, with 50/50 cost and profit sharing. If Regeneron does not opt-in, the company is eligible to receive milestone payments and royalties from bluebird bio on any potential resulting products.
Regeneron will also make a $100 million investment in bluebird bio common stock at a price of $238.10 per share, which represents a premium of 59 percent over the $150 closing price on August 3, 2018. This approximately $37 million premium will be credited against Regeneron’s initial 50 percent funding obligation for basic collaboration research, after which the collaborators will fund ongoing research equally. The transaction is subject to preclearance by the Federal Trade Commission under applicable antitrust laws.
Cell-based immunotherapies such as chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR Ts) use human immune cells (typically T cells derived from the patient with cancer) that are modified and returned to the patient to serve as therapeutic agents that specifically target and kill cancer cells. In advanced clinical studies, researchers have shown that modified T cells are highly active therapies in patients with a variety of blood cancers even after other treatment approaches have failed, and there are existing FDA-approved medicines that utilize this approach.
bluebird bio’s technologies use a customized lentiviral vector to modify T cells so that they can recognize tumor-specific proteins expressed by cancer cells and kill them upon engagement. Regeneron’s VelociSuite technologies, including VelocImmune and Veloci-T, enable the creation of fully-human antibodies and T cell receptors. These complementary technologies have the potential to expand the types of tumors that modified T cells can safely and effectively target by enabling the T cells to reach both extracellular and intracellular tumor antigens.