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Bayer brings in BlueRock
BERLIN and CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Bayer AG and BlueRock Therapeutics announced today an agreement under which Bayer will acquire BlueRock Therapeutics, a privately held US-headquartered biotechnology company focused on developing engineered cell therapies in the fields of neurology, cardiology and immunology, using a proprietary induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform.
Following a 2016 joint venture with Versant Ventures to establish BlueRock Therapeutics, Bayer will acquire the remaining stake for approximately $240 million in cash upfront at closing, and an additional $360 million 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 $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. 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,” said Stefan Oelrich, member of the board of Management, Bayer AG, and president of the Pharmaceuticals Division.
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. Stem cell therapy could re-innervate the human brain and reverse degenerative disease, potentially restoring motor function.
“We are extremely excited to be part of the world-class Bayer organization,” added 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.”
In 2016, Bayer and founding investor Versant Ventures established BlueRock Therapeutics with a US $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.
“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,” noted Kemal Malik, Bayer board member for Innovation.
With this transaction, Bayer will own full rights to BlueRock Therapeutics’ CELL+GENE platform, a broad intellectual property portfolio and an 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.
This isn’t the only company that Bayer has snapped up recently. In June 2018, Bayer acquired the agriculture giant Monsanto for $63 billion, including debt.
“The acquisition of Monsanto brings together two strong and highly complementary businesses: Bayer’s innovative chemical and biological crop protection portfolio and Monsanto’s exceptional expertise in the field of seeds and traits,” said Werner Baumann, chairman of the board of Management, Bayer, in a press release. “We are now a leader in the agricultural industry with a clear commitment to innovation and sustainability – for the benefit of our customers and society.”
In addition to leveraging its employees’ agricultural expertise, Bayer now has the strongest portfolio of seed and crop protection products for a wide range of crops and indications, the best research and development platform, and the leading digital farming business.