Regeneron, Bluebird ink anti-cancer cell therapy pact

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Regeneron and Bluebird bio have teamed up to develop anti-cancer cell therapies. The collaboration combines Regeneron’s antibody expertise with Bluebird’s cell therapy toolkit in a bid to expand the list of tumors modified T cells can treat.

To start, Regeneron and Bluebird have come up with six initial targets. More targets may be added over the five-year duration of the research agreement. The partners will split the cost of taking drugs against the targets up to IND filings. For some targets, Regeneron can opt in to a 50-50 clinical and commercial collaboration, or choose to stay on the sidelines and pocket milestones from Bluebird.

Regeneron is making a $100 million investment in Bluebird at 59% above the market rate to enter into the collaboration. The stock premium paid by Regeneron, which amounts to $37 million, will go toward its 50% share of the research bill.

New York’s Regeneron is contributing its antibody technologies to the research collaboration, too. A string of successes have established Regeneron as one of the best antibody shops in the industry. The biotech’s approved antibodies are all conventional monoclonals, but the same underlying platform could also generate molecules for use in the targeting of cell therapies.

With Regeneron generating highly selective antibodies, Bluebird can focus on creating cell therapies to pair with these targeting vehicles. These activities will make use of the capabilities Bluebird built up in the development of its Celgene-partnered anti-BCMA CAR-T.

Bluebird has plugged away at other CAR-T programs internally, leading to the early progress of a candidate against the HPV-16 E6 oncoprotein. But partnering with Regeneron stands to turbocharge these efforts by giving Bluebird a source of antibodies capable of hitting extra and intracellular tumor antigens.

“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 CSO Philip Gregory, D.Phil., said in a statement.