Bayer has created a cell and gene therapy platform to support its growing pipeline of advanced therapy medicinal products. The platform is intended to enable Bayer to make its expertise and resources available to its partners while preserving their autonomy and culture.
Germany’s Bayer has moved into cell and gene therapies on multiple fronts in recent years, buying up induced pluripotent stem cell specialist BlueRock Therapeutics and adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy player Asklepios BioPharmaceutical while investing in a clutch of other biotechs. The deals have given Bayer a pipeline of five advanced assets and more than 15 preclinical prospects.
Rather than subsume BlueRock and AskBio, Bayer opted to allow the businesses to operate as independent companies in an attempt to preserve their cultures. Yet, Bayer also wants to enable the companies to realize the benefits that can come from being part of a larger organization.
The cell and gene therapy platform is the result of that effort to get the best of both worlds. Bayer will use the platform to provide support to its cell and gene therapy businesses and orchestrate its operations in the area across the product life cycle. Specific areas of support offered by the platform span preclinical through to commercial, strategy implementation and project management.
Bayer is investing in its internal capabilities to strengthen the platform as well as looking to enter into strategic collaborations, acquire technologies and strike licensing deals. The deals entered into so far have given Bayer infrastructure as well as product candidates.
Notably, AskBio has a CDMO unit, Viralgen, specializing in AAV gene therapy production. As limited access to manufacturing capacity has been a barrier to speedy gene therapy development, buying the CDMO could help Bayer remove a constraint on the progress of its programs and become a more attractive partner for startups. Bayer thinks allowing acquired startups autonomy makes it attractive, too.
Wolfram Carius, who joined Bayer from Sanofi in 2016, is heading up the new cell and gene therapy platform. Carius said the platform “is vital to accelerate innovation at its source, and to ensure its translation into tangible therapies for patients who have no time to wait” in a statement.
Bayer’s platform is a twist on strategies being pursued by many of its peers, which have identified cell and gene therapies as growth areas and bought in assets but sought to avoid smothering the startups. Kite, for example, operates as its own business unit within Gilead Sciences, and Spark Therapeutics is an independent company within the Roche group.