Bluebird, Celgene to share U.S. costs, profits on lead cancer CAR-T

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Bluebird stands to collect up to $70 million in milestone payments for bb2121's first indication, and could pick up more from a potential second indication. (Gerd Altmann)

Bluebird bio has pulled the trigger on an option to co-develop and co-promote the anti-BCMA CAR-T treatment, bb2121, with Celgene in the U.S. The move comes two years after Celgene forked over $10 million to exclusively license the therapy.

The pair entered a global research pact in 2013 to discover, develop and commercialize novel cancer treatments. That included bb2121, which adds a B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA)-chimeric antigen receptor to patients' T cells.

Now, starting in April, they will share U.S. costs and profits evenly, including those associated with the ongoing phase 1 clinical study of bb2121, as well as the commercialization and manufacturing of the treatment within the U.S.

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Under the agreement, Bluebird stands to collect up to $70 million in development milestones for bb2121’s first indication, relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma. It has the potential to pick up more milestone payments from a second indication and modified licensed products, the company said in an 8-K filing. It will also receive ex-U.S. royalties on the treatment.

“Entering into this co-development and co-promotion partnership with Celgene is a significant step forward in building a fully integrated oncology franchise for bluebird and together, we are committed to rapidly advancing development of bb2121 for patients,” said Joanne Smith-Farrell, oncology franchise leader and senior vice president, corporate development and strategy at Bluebird.

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“The collaboration builds upon our extensive research and development capabilities in oncology and is a testament to the strong partnership that exists between our two companies.” Bluebird and Celgene are also collaborating on a second multiple myeloma candidate, bb21217

Bluebird reported data from the CRB-401 phase 1 trial of bb2121 in December showing impressive overall and complete response rates to the treatment—94% and 56% respectively—despite the patients having late-stage multiple myeloma after having been treated with a median of seven earlier treatments.