Bayer to pay $240M to buy BlueRock cell therapy joint venture 

BlueRock expects to enter the clinic later this year. (Bayer)

Bayer is set to pay $240 million (€214 million) upfront to buy the remaining stake in its cell therapy joint venture, BlueRock Therapeutics. The deal will give Bayer control of an induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) pipeline led by a late-preclinical Parkinson’s disease candidate.

BlueRock began life in 2016 with a $225 million series A round involving Bayer and Versant Ventures. The funding enabled BlueRock to advance candidates based on its cell therapy platform, culminating in it being months away from moving a Parkinson’s program into human testing. 

Bayer held a 40% stake in BlueRock through its role in its creation and has now returned for the rest of the company. In addition to the $225 million upfront, Bayer has committed up to $360 million in development milestones. Once Bayer’s existing stake is factored in, the German company calculates the deal values BlueRock at up to $1 billion.

In return for its investment, Bayer will gain assets it thinks can support a push to become a leader in the emerging cell therapy sector. BlueRock will continue to operate as an independent company. 

“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,” Stefan Oelrich, president of Bayer’s pharma unit, said in a statement.

BlueRock secured that central position in Bayer’s future on the potential for its platform to spawn drugs that address major unmet medical needs across neurology, cardiology and immunology indications. In Parkinson’s, BlueRock thinks it can restore motor function and boost dopamine release through the administration of dopaminergic neurons.

Work is underway to develop other cells, including microglia, macrophages and cardiomyocytes, for use in different indications. Each program is underpinned by a pluripotent master cell bank that could eliminate some of the logistical complexities associated with the production of other cell therapies.