Bayer: Betting Big on Cell & Gene Therapy


Bayer’s latest move to buy out BlueRock Therapeutics comes with a price tag of USD 600 million in total as the company increasingly looks toward cell and gene therapies to bolster its development pipeline and create transformative biotechnological solutions.


German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG is setting its sights on cell and gene therapies, aiming to position itself as a leader in the field. The company’s most recent step forward in cell and gene therapies has led it to buy out the privately-held US biotech BlueRock Therapeutics. 


Bayer helped launch BlueRock Therapeutics in a 2016 joint venture with Versant Ventures. The current deal will allow Bayer to acquire the remaining stake for USD 240 million upfront, with an additional USD 360 million after certain milestones are achieved. BlueRock is being valued at USD 1 billion, which includes Bayer’s current 40.8 percent stake. The original joint venture was financed through Bayer’s investment arm, Leaps by Bayer, which has already invested in cell and gene therapies for cancer treatment through other partnerships with Casebia Therapeutics, Khloris Biosciences, Pyxis, Joyn Bio and Century Therapeutics. 


BlueRock is aiming to set itself apart with its development of a proprietary induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform called Cell+Gene, which has the potential to reverse degenerative disease and restore motor function to Parkinson’s disease patients. iPSC therapy involves reprogramming cells and injecting them to restore diseased tissue. BlueRock’s cell therapy pipeline focuses on neurology, cardiology and immunology, and its Parkinson’s therapy is expected to enter the early clinical trial stage by the end of 2019. Through the recent deal, Bayer will have full ownership of the Cell+Gene platform, which it hopes will bring new treatment options for unmet medical needs, especially for the more than seven million patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. BlueRock will continue to operate independently after the deal is finalised, allowing it to retain what it sees as its unique innovative and entrepreneurial culture. 


Bayer is banking on the deal to bolster its development pipeline as its current blockbusters, Xarelto and Eylea, approach their patent cliff in the next five years. Bayer’s Spain CEO Bernardo Kanahuati told PharmaBoardroom, “Throughout its history, which spans more than 150 years… Bayer has experienced various cycles and has successfully divested or acquired businesses, always with the strategic intent of strengthening its business portfolio.”

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