Blackstone, Cellex and Intellia form $250M CAR-T startup

Blackstone
Intellia is entering into a co-development and co-funding agreement with the Blackstone-backed startup. (Blackstone)

Blackstone Life Sciences, Cellex Cell Professionals and Intellia Therapeutics have teamed to create a CAR-T therapy startup. The biotech begins life with $250 million from Blackstone, universal CAR-T platforms from Cellex and CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology from Intellia.

GEMoaB, a subsidiary of Cellex, is developing platforms to improve the therapeutic window of CAR T-cell therapies and enable them to be silenced in less than four hours. Intellia and GEMoaB formed a research collaboration and license agreement last year to assess the combination of their genome editing technologies and rapidly switchable universal CAR-T platform RevCAR, respectively. 

Involving Blackstone positions GEMoaB and Intellia to step up the CAR-T work. The new company will acquire GEMoaB and its offices in Germany and set up a headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Led by Andrew Schiermeier, currently chief operating officer at Intellia, the company will advance a pipeline of cell therapies based on its exclusive license to combine Intellia’s CRISPR/Cas9 allogeneic platform with GEMoaB’s two switchable, universal CAR T-cell platforms, and UniCAR and RevCAR. 

“Bringing together GEMoaB’s universal CAR-T platform with Intellia’s differentiated allogeneic T cell platform and CRISPR-based cell engineering provides a unique opportunity to move cell therapy technology to new heights,” Schiermeier said in a statement. “Our focus is on providing significantly safer and more efficacious treatments to patients who are suffering from hard-to-treat cancers and autoimmune diseases.”

GEMoaB is in the clinic with an autologous anti-CD123 CAR-T and will continue to advance its clinical assets as a subsidiary of the newly established company. The longer term goal of the partners is to use Intellia’s technology to create allogeneic candidates.  

Intellia has secured the chance to profit from the success of candidates based on its technology. As part of the deal to create the startup, Intellia is entering into a co-development and co-funding agreement to develop an allogeneic treatment for an immuno-oncology indication. Intellia can opt-in to a second program. Blackstone, Cellex and Intellia have equal ownership of the new company. 

Schiermeier framed the creation of the company as a chance to address the limitations of current CAR-Ts. The successful development of allogeneic therapies would address some of the logistical challenges associated with current therapies, while GEMoaB’s use of antigen-specific targeting modules to activate and direct CAR-Ts could provide improved safety and control.

Many other companies are working on cell therapies with similar goals, but the involvement of the founding biotechs and Blackstone, an investor with the means to take drugs all the way to market, immediately puts the startup on the map.