The companies will collaborate on the discovery, development, and commercialization of cell therapies for cancer.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and bluebird bio announced a collaboration to apply their respective technology platforms to the discovery, development, and commercialization of new immune cell therapies for cancer. The companies will specifically leverage Regeneron’s VelociSuite platform technologies to discover and characterize fully human antibodies as well as T-cell receptors (TCRs) directed against tumor-specific proteins and peptides. bluebird bio will contribute its expertise in gene transfer and cell therapy.
Under the agreement, Regeneron will make a $100-million investment in bluebird bio common stock at a price of $238.10 per share, which represents a premium of 59% over the $150-closing-price on Aug. 3, 2018. This approximately $37-million premium will be credited against Regeneron’s initial 50% 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.
The partners have jointly selected six initial targets and will equally share the costs of R&D up to the point of submitting an investigational new drug (IND) application. They may select additional targets 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.
“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, MD, PhD, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron, in a company press release. “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 [chimeric antigen receptor T cell] and T-cell receptor programs,” said Philip Gregory, chief scientific officer of bluebird bio, in the release. “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.”
bluebird bio’s technologies use a customized lentiviral vector to modify T cells to 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. The technologies complement each other and 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, the companies state.