Bayer boosts cell therapy pipeline with BlueRock acquisition

Photo: Bayer AG

Bayer has announced it is fully acquiring US cell therapy biotech BlueRock Therapeutics, whose cell therapy pipeline includes a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

BlueRock was created in 2016 via a joint venture between Bayer and Versant Ventures as part of the Leaps by Bayer unit, which works on establishing new companies and investing in new early-stage technologies.

Now Bayer will acquire the remaining stake for approximately $240 million, with an additional $360 million payable upon achievement of pre-defined development milestones.

With Bayer currently holding a 40.8% stake, the investment corresponds to a total company value of BlueRock Therapeutics of approximately $1 billion.

The transaction is expected to close during Q3 2019.

“This acquisition marks a major milestone on our path towards a leading position in cell therapy,” said Stefan Oelrich, president of Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division. “In line with our strategy to ramp up our investments in technologies with breakthrough innovation potential, we have decided to build our cell therapy pipeline based on BlueRock Therapeutics’ industry-leading iPSC platform. Ultimately, we are joining forces to deliver new treatment options for medical needs that are still unmet today.”

BlueRock Therapeutics’ portfolio of cell therapies is currently focused on neurology, cardiology and immunology with a lead programme in Parkinson’s disease expected to enter the clinic by the end of 2019.

Bayer will own full rights to BlueRock’s CELL+GENE platform, including a broad intellectual property portfolio and associated technology platform including proprietary induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform technology, gene engineering and cell differentiation capabilities.

In a statement the company said that BlueRock will remain ‘an independent company operating on an arm’s-length basis’ from Bayer in order to ‘preserve the entrepreneurial culture as an essential pillar for nurturing successful innovation’.

In other M&A news, Bayer has been planning to sell off its animal health unit to private equity interests, but recent reports have suggested it has put these plans on hold to explore a merger of the unit with US firm Elanco.