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bluebird backs own CAR-T prospect, takes option to co-develop with Celgene

Published on 29/03/18 at 10:17am

Biotech companies showing faith in their own prospect drug candidates is not an unusual occurrence, some do it to extremes. However, when it happens to be a CAR-T candidate and one that is targeting anti-B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA), a few more people sit up to take notice.

This is what has happened after bluebird bio strengthened its research collaboration agreement with Celgene for the candidate, bb2121; bluebird has taken up the option to co-develop and co-commercialise the prospect alongside Celgene, suggesting it has confidence in the treatment to make a serious impact for patients.

Celgene’s shares rose by 3% on the news that bluebird had decided to become more involved in the development of the candidate.

The original agreement was struck in 2013 and bluebird retained the option to split the US costs and profits evenly, with it also being in line to gain $70 million should the candidate receive its first indication in relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma. It will also receive further payments on future indications.

Celgene will still be in charge of commercialising the treatment by itself outside of the US, with bluebird being eligible to receive royalties on sales ex-US.

“Entering into this co-development and co-promotion partnership with Celgene is a significant step forward in building a fully integrated oncology franchise for bluebird and together, we are committed to rapidly advancing development of bb2121 for patients,” said Joanne Smith-Farrell, Oncology Franchise Leader and Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Strategy, bluebird bio. “The collaboration builds upon our extensive research and development capabilities in oncology and is a testament to the strong partnership that exists between our two companies.”

The agreement will see the two companies work together on an ongoing Phase 1 trial into bb2121. They are also working on a second clinical-stage candidate, in Bb2127 – another anti-BCMA CAR T program.

Ben Hargreaves

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