Gene therapy player bluebird bio ($BLUE) has been expanding more broadly into cancer immunotherapy and gene editing. As part of that, it’s partnered with German biotech Medigene ($MDG) to develop and commercialize T cell receptor (TCR) immunotherapies against four targets.
A Phase I investigator-sponsored TCR trial with Medigene participation is expected to start next year. Medigene also plans to advance its own TCR into Phase I next year, with another planned for the following year. But none of these are part of the Medigene deal, for which clinical timing remains undisclosed.
“Medigene’s proprietary technology to generate highly active natural TCRs makes them an ideal partner, enabling us to broaden our pipeline with TCR-based product candidates against four new targets and continue to build our leadership in immuno-oncology,” said bluebird VP of immunotherapy Rick Morgan in a statement.
He added, “This agreement exploits our core expertise in lentiviral gene transfer, genome editing and synthetic biology, and leverages our manufacturing and clinical development capabilities to build a broad, fully integrated immuno-oncology franchise.”
Medigene gets an upfront of $15 million, an additional potential over $1 billion in preclinical, clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones as well as a tiered royalty that’s a double-digit percentage on net sales. Bluebird gains worldwide development and commercialization rights to the TCRs in the partnership.
Under the deal, Medigene will deliver TCRs to bluebird using its TCR isolation and characterization platform. The partners will work together on preclinical development and then bluebird will then assume sole responsibility for the clinical development and commercialization of the candidates.
“Our first commercial agreement based on Medigene’s TCR technology is testimony to our rapid progress as an immuno-oncology company,” said Medigene COO Dave Lemus. “The agreement provides Medigene with significant additional financial resources for both the short term and potentially the long term.”