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Regeneron and Bluebird Bio collaborate on T-cells in $100 million deal

Regeneron and Bluebird Bio have announced that they will collaboration to apply their respective technology platforms to the discovery, development and commercialisation of novel immune cell therapies for cancer.

The companies will specifically leverage Regeneron’s VelociSuite platform technologies for the discovery and characterszation 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.

They 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-commercialisation 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.

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.

Bluebird’s technologies use a customised lentiviral vector to modify T cells so that they can recognise 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.