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bluebird bio to separate oncology and rare diseases units

New oncology company will be led by current bluebird bio CEO Nick Leschly

bluebird bio has announced plans to spin out its oncology unit into a new company (“Oncology Newco”) while it will remain focused on developing gene therapies for rare diseases.

Oncology Newco will be established as an independent organisation and will be led by bluebird bio’s current chief executive officer Nick Leschly.

bluebird bio, which will retain its focus on severe genetic diseases (SGD), will be headed by the current president of the company’s SGD business Andrew Obenshain, with Leschly set to take on the role of executive chair.

The aim of the split is to enhance ‘resource allocation and capital considerations’ for the separate companies by streamlining and simplifying operations, according to a statement issued by bluebird bio earlier today.

“We are excited and energised to begin this new year with so much opportunity ahead. Over the last decade, bluebird bio has pioneered development of gene and cell therapies for severe genetic diseases and oncology – delivering transformative outcomes for patients,” said Leschly.

“After careful strategic review, it is clear to us that the two businesses are best served by independent leadership and teams to drive distinct strategic and operational objectives,” he added.

Oncology Newco will assume responsibility for a number of bluebird bio’s current oncology assets, including its investigational BCMA-targeting CAR T therapy idecabtagene vicleucel (ide-cel), which is currently being developed in multiple myeloma.

In addition, Oncology Newco will focus on the continued development of its investigational, Bristol Myers Squibb-partnered bb21217 candidate – another BCMA-targeting CAR T therapy.

It will also retain research and development responsibilities for bluebird’s oncology pipeline of cellular therapies, which are focused on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, acute myeloid leukaemia, next-generation multiple myeloma and solid tumours.

bluebird bio will continue to focus on delivering gene therapies in its core areas – beta-thalassaemia, cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy and sickle cell disease.

This includes its beta-thalassaemia gene therapy betibeglogene autotemcel, which is approved in the EU under the brand name Zynteglo.

Towards the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020, bluebird bio announced delays involving the completion of certain clinical studies across its research operations.

Although bluebird bio officially launched Zynteglo in Germany in January 2020 – its first market – the company later announced that the first commercial patient to receive the treatment was likely to be shifted to the second half of the year.

In its third quarter results, published in November 2020, the first commercial patients in Europe had not yet been treated with the gene therapy.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

11th January 2021

From: Research

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