Bluebird taps Gritstone for oncology cell therapy targets

Close-up of handshake between person in suit and person in business shirt.
Bluebird is handing over a $20 million upfront fee and making a $10 million investment in Gritstone. (Getty Images/FS-Stock)

Bluebird bio has teamed up with Gritstone Oncology to access another set of targets for its oncology cell therapies. The deal sees Bluebird pay $20 million upfront in return for 10 tumor-specific targets and T-cell receptors (TCRs).

With its two anti-BCMA CAR-T therapies now in the clinic, Bluebird has spent the past few months securing the building blocks of future assets. In June, Bluebird inked a deal with Regeneron that gave it access to antibodies designed to guide cell therapies to extra- and intracellular targets. Now, bluebird has teamed up with Gritstone to access more targets for its cell therapies.

Gritstone will use its technology platform to analyze specific tumor types in search of tumor-specific targets and natural TCRs. Bluebird will apply its cell therapy platforms to these targets and, if all goes well, usher the resulting candidates through development and on to the market.

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The agreement tasks Gritstone with providing 10 targets. In return, Bluebird is handing over a $20 million upfront fee, making a $10 million investment in Gritstone and committing to pay “significant” milestones as candidates advance. Gritstone will also pocket tiered royalties if a drug based on its work makes it to market.

Bluebird’s willingness to put up the cash reflects the recognition that it, and all oncology cell therapy companies, need high-quality targets to unlock the potential of their platforms.

“As the field of immuno-oncology has evolved, it has become clear that targeting T-cell therapeutics to solid tumors in a highly specific manner is vital to enable potent tumor cell killing with sparing of normal tissues,” Gritstone CEO Andrew Allen, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement.

Allen thinks Gritstone’s platform can provide the required targets. Gritstone is using the same platform in the development of its own pipeline, which is led by the neoantigen immunotherapy GRANITE-001.

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