Bayer Strengthens Development Of Stem Cell Therapies, Buys BlueRock For $600m

Cell therapy developer BlueRock Therapeutics would be taken over via complete control by German drugmaker Bayer according to a deal worth up to $600 million. According to analysts, this investment move by Bayer is aimed to strengthen its position in a new and promising medical area as well as to develop its pipeline of medicines under development.

In 2016, Versant Ventures and Bayer had established BlueRock as part of their joint venture. Now Bayer plans to buy out the remaining 59.2 per cent stake in the partnership company. According to the deal, Bayer would be paying about $240 million upfront would be later paying an additional $360 million which would depend on some specific achievements of drug development, the company said.

This deal values BlueRock at about $1 billion. The iocmpany currently is working on developing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), which is developed by reprogramming mature body cells in a way that they behave like embryonic stem cells which are injected to restore diseased tissue in patients.

Developing drugs for treatment of neurology, cardiology and immunology conditions is also planned by the biotech firm. And by the end of this year, the company would start testing of its drugs and therapy on Parkinson’s disease patients in a U.S. regulated trial. This is the drug that is at the most advanced stage for the company.

“We get access and full ownership in one of the most exciting areas of biology that exist currently,” Bayer’s head of pharmaceuticals, Stefan Oelrich, said in an interview.

More than 7 million people are affected globally by Parkinson’s disease which is a incapacitating neurological disease which cannot be cured yet.

Research in iPSC had been conducted earlier before by Bayer. An agreement for joint development of anti-cancer vaccines based on iPSCs was struck by Bayer with unlisted Khloris Biosciences in April this year. And then in July this year, the company made an investment in Century Therapeutics, another US biotech group with a focus on iPSCs, to take up a minority share for $215 million.

However the investment to take complete of BlueRock can be described to be the “foundational piece” of Bayer, said Oelrich. He explained that all of the earlier investments had been made for minority stakes and were made for therapies and drugs that were in their early stages of development.

In July, a group of scientists of Kyoto University in Japan had claimed that they would be the first to run a trial with iPSC in Parkinson’s patients because they have been pioneering the technology. The scientists have said that they have already tested the drugs on monkeys.

The strategy of Bayer to enrich its drug development pipeline would be focused on and strongly depend on external firms and institutions, the company had said last year. According to analysts, the development pipeline of Bayer is too small and could spell trouble for the company as its two pharma bestsellers could lead to an expected decline in revenues from about 2024.

(Adapted from Reuters.com)

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