Bayer launches CGT unit on back of Bluerock and AskBio acquisitions

Having closed its $2 billion acquisition of Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio), Bayer has established a cell and gene therapy platform.

The Cell and Gene Therapy (C&GT) Platform within Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals division aims to bring various acquisitions, capabilities, and assets together.

According to the firm, the unit “will provide an innovation ecosystem within which the different participating partners, whether they be independent companies or strategic collaborators, can operate most effectively. They keep and further develop their passion and biotech spirit, scientific leadership and external collaborations.”

The unit was launched as Bayer closed its acquisition of AskBio, adding an adeno-associated virus (AAV) manufacturing platform, clinical-stage candidates, and a contract manufacturing unit. A year prior, the firm bought allogeneic cell therapy developer BlueRock Therapeutics for $240 million.

Under the terms of the new platform, “BlueRock, AskBio and other members of the C&GT Platform operate autonomously, preserving their identity and biotech culture,” we were told.

Currently, Bayer’s advanced therapy pipeline comprises of five candidates in the clinic and over fifteen preclinical candidates and the firm aims to generate at least three investigational new drugs annually for the forseeable future, the spokesperson said.

Bayer’s regenerative past and future

While AskBio and BlueRock are the largest and latest deals in the space for Bayer, the firm has been investing in gene therapies for years.

“Beginning in 2014, Bayer entered into a collaboration agreement with Ultragenyx Pharmaceuticals, marking our first step into the field of gene therapy and through which we are developing a novel AAV-based gene therapy for the treatment of hemophilia A,” we were told.

“In 2016, Leaps by Bayer founded the joint venture Casebia together with CRISPR Therapeutics. Casebia focused on developing breakthrough therapies using promising CRISPR / Cas9 gene editing technology. Additionally, through strategic acquisitions, business development and licensing activities, Bayer has further expanded its commitment to cell and gene therapy with an objective to build a robust therapy platform with broad application in gene as well as cell therapy.”

And with the new unit and growing focus in the sector, investments are unlikely to stop.

“Bayer focuses on selected areas of cell and gene therapy, such as stem cell therapies (with focus on inducible pluripotent cells or iPSCs), gene augmentation, gene editing and allogeneic cell therapies in different indications. This is largely because of how these areas create an ideal fit and complement to our in-house programs and expertise,” he firm said.

“We seek to build up in these areas and complement further investments with the build-up of complementary internal capabilities.”

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