Celgene exec jumps to head bluebird bio ops in Europe, where its $1.8M gene therapy Zynteglo is now available
Days after shaking hands with German regulators over the launch and coverage of its beta-thalassemia gene therapy, bluebird bio has wooed a Celgene exec to lead its European operations.
Nicola Heffron, a biopharma vet with stints across Eli Lilly, GSK and Shire, jumps from a brief tenure overseeing marketing for Celgene’s myeloid portfolio in Summit, NJ. She will now be based in Zug, Switzerland.
She’s replacing Andrew Obenshain as he joins CEO Nick Leschly and the leadership team in Boston, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news. Obenshain’s new title is “chief of wings.”
On Monday bluebird announced that Germany will be the first country to commercially offer Zynteglo, their procedure encoding βA-T87Q-globin gene in CD34+ cells extracted from patients. Under their value-based payment scheme, the $1.8 million price is divided into five installments. After an initial payment is made at the time of infusion, the payers wait and see and only pay if the patients continue to be transfusion-free.
“Multiple statutory health insurances” have signed onto the plan, bluebird said, and University Hospital of Heidelberg will host the first qualified treatment center.
The biotech has been busy sorting out manufacturing specs and talking to individual countries since the EU issued an historic OK last June. It’s sanctioned for a specific group of beta-thalassemia patients — those who are 12 years and older, transfusion dependent, do not have a β0/β0 genotype and for whom hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is appropriate but a donor is not available.
“For patients with TDT, lifelong chronic blood transfusions are required in order to survive,” bluebird chief commercial officer Alison Finger emphasized in a statement. Their one-time infusion promises to do away with the transfusions for good.
A rolling BLA submission to the FDA has begun, bluebird added.