bluebird bio and Celgene narrow focus of gene therapy partnership

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Through their two-year-old cancer gene therapy partnership, the collaborating companies Celgene and bluebird bio are focussing solely on multiple myeloma going forwards.

The companies have recently announced that over the next three years they will work together to develop product candidates targeting B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA); a cell surface protein expressed in most multiple myeloma cells and normal plasma cells. MergerThe current co-developed lead candidate of this type, bb2121, will be the focus of a Phase 1 clinical trial, with enrolment beginning as early as 2016. Added to this, the companies alleged that they will also be developing next-generation anti-BCMA product candidates. This revised agreement sees Celgene paying bluebird bio $25 million to further develop these new products and to take bb2121 forwards through Phase 1 trials. By way of return, bluebird bio has agreed to oversee the development of all future anti-BCMA candidates through to the end of Phase 1 studies.

‘We look forward to continuing to work with bluebird and build on the recent success to advance the anti-BCMA program and ultimately, to succeed on the goal of delivering a high-impact therapeutic in the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T arena,’ added Tom Daniel, MD, Celgene’s president of research and early development.

Celgene has the option to develop and commercialize each anti-BCMA product globally. Within this program, bluebird bio also has the option to share equally in the development, promotion and profits of each product candidate in the USA.

The rights to all other CAR T cell programs developed through the collaboration belong to bluebird bio, the company has said.
The first collaboration between the companies in 2013 set out an agreement to apply gene therapy technology to genetically modify patients’ own T lymphocytes to target and kill malignant cells. Nick Leschly, CEO and President of bluebird bio stated that ‘We have successfully achieved the initial goal of our collaboration with Celgene – identifying a promising lead development candidate in the CAR T cell field – and we are excited to focus our Celgene collaboration on the development of anti-BCMA products.’