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Blackstone to invest $250M in cell therapy startup backed by Intellia, Cellex

Dive Brief:

  • Blackstone, one of the world’s largest investment firms, is joining forces with gene editing drugmaker Intellia Therapeutics and a German cell manufacturer to launch a new biotechnology company focused on developing cell therapies for cancer and autoimmune diseases.


  • According to a June 22 announcement, funds managed by Blackstone Life Sciences, which has previously invested large sums in Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and several other biotech companies, will contribute $250 million to the new, as yet unnamed company.


  • Intellia and Cellex, the German manufacturer, will own equal shares in the new company, which aims to pair CRISPR gene editing technology developed by Intellia with a CAR-T cell therapy platform built by Cellex subsidiary GEMoaB. As a result of the deal, the new company will acquire GEMoaB.


Dive Insight:

Blackstone has played the role of biotech backer before, part of a push into life sciences investment catalyzed by the firm’s 2018 acquisition of Clarus. Since then, Blackstone has put more than $3.3 billion into an array of new and existing biotech companies, including Alnylam, Reata Pharmaceuticals, FerGene and Anthos Therapeutics.

In July of last year, the investment firm closed what it claimed was the largest private equity fund for life sciences investing, raising $4.6 billion.

Blackstone is the sole founding investor in the cell therapy company announced Tuesday, which is built around technology from Intellia and Cellex’s GEMoaB. The goal is to develop more potent and adaptable cell therapies for cancer and inflammatory diseases, an aim shared by several high-profile biotech startups.

The new company will have access to Intellia’s CRISPR-based gene editing to design allogeneic, or donor cell-derived, cell therapies, and can draw on Cellex’s manufacturing network for the exacting work of producing the complex treatments.

Intellia, which is developing allogeneic CAR-T cell therapies of its own, will have option rights under a separate deal to co-develop and co-fund two CAR-T cell products that emerge from the new company.

Both Intellia and GEMoaB are contributing executives to lead the new company. Andrew Schiermeier, a former Merck KGaA executive who has been chief operating officer at Intellia since 2017, will be the new company’s CEO.

“This launch represents the first of many steps to addressing the various limitations that currently exist in the cell therapy space,” said Schiermeier in the June 22 statement.

Gerhard Ehninger, GEMoaB’s chief medical officer, will take the same role at the new company, while GEMoaB chief science officer Armin Ehninger also will join the new company in his same role.

Olivier Brandicourt, the former CEO of French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, will chair the company’s board of directors. Brandicourt joined Blackstone as a senior adviser after stepping down as Sanofi’s CEO in late 2019.

The companies expect the deal forming the new company to close in the third quarter.