Bayer acquires biotech startup BlueRock Therapeutics for $1 billion to build leading position in cell therapy
Bayer AG, the German multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences company and one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, today announced it’s buying BlueRock Therapeutics that values the company up to $1 billion, inclusive of 40.8 percent stake currently held by Bayer. As part of the acquisition agreement, BlueRock Therapeutics to continue to operate as an independent company.
Founded in 2016 by Gordon Keller, BlueRock Therapeutics is a biotech startup company that develops induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) therapies to cure a range of diseases using an industry-leading platform. One of the initial programs is to regenerate heart muscle in patients who have had a heart attack (myocard infarction, MI) or are suffering from chronic heart failure, leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwid.
BlueRock is using its unique CELL+GENE™ platform to direct cellular differentiation and genetically engineer cells to create an entirely new generation of cellular medicines in the areas of neurology, cardiology, and immunology.
Following a 2016 joint venture with Versant Ventures to establish BlueRock Therapeutics, Bayer will acquire the remaining stake for approximately USD 240 million in cash to be paid upfront at closing and an additional USD 360 million payable upon achievement of pre-defined development milestones. With Bayer currently holding 40.8 percent stake, the investment corresponds to a total company value of BlueRock Therapeutics of approximately USD 1 billion. The closing of the transaction is expected during the third quarter of 2019.
“This acquisition marks a major milestone on our path towards a leading position in cell therapy,” said Stefan Oelrich, Member of the Board of Management, Bayer AG and President 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.”
“We are extremely excited to be part of the world-class Bayer organization,” said Emile Nuwaysir, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, BlueRock Therapeutics. “We have built a premier cell therapy platform at BlueRock Therapeutics, with industry-leading R&D, process development and manufacturing capabilities. With the expertise and support of Bayer, we will be even better positioned to pursue the discovery, development and commercialization of revolutionary new cell therapies for patients suffering from diseases previously thought of as intractable.”
The convergence of cell biology and engineering has enabled an important new treatment modality for patients, with significant clinical benefit demonstrated in diseases previously deemed intractable. Especially for degenerative diseases where cell loss and low self-repair potential occur, such as cardiac muscle loss or degenerative neurological disorders, regenerative cell therapy offers unprecedented potential to have a significant benefit for patients.
BlueRock Therapeutics’ portfolio of cell therapies is currently focused on neurology, cardiology and immunology with a lead program in Parkinson’s disease expected to enter the clinic by the end of 2019. Among neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson’s disease is the fastest growing in prevalence, disability and mortality. The primary and most debilitating symptom of Parkinson’s disease is a progressive loss of motor control. Stem cell therapy could re-innervate the human brain and reverse degenerative disease, potentially restoring motor function to more than seven million of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease globally.
In 2016, Bayer and founding investor Versant Ventures established BlueRock Therapeutics with a USD 225 Million Series A Financing as part of the Leaps by Bayer unit. Leaps is complementary to Bayer’s divisional R&D approach and works on establishing new companies and investing in new early-stage technologies with breakthrough potential that have the potential to prevent or cure some of today’s biggest health concerns.
“This transaction is not only the foundation for an iPSC-based cell therapy portfolio, but also a manifestation of a successful innovation strategy by our Leaps unit to create biotechnological solutions that have truly transformative potential and may cure patients in life-threatening conditions one day,” said Kemal Malik, Bayer Board member for Innovation.
With this transaction, Bayer will own full rights to BlueRock Therapeutics’ CELL+GENETM platform, including a broad intellectual property portfolio and associated technology platform including proprietary iPSC technology, gene engineering and cell differentiation capabilities. In addition to its current focus, BlueRock Therapeutics’ platform brings the opportunity to extend to other therapeutic areas beyond the current development programs. To preserve the entrepreneurial culture as an essential pillar for nurturing successful innovation, BlueRock Therapeutics’ will remain an independent company, operating on an arm’s-length basis.