Deals, Oncology

TCR deal frenzy continues as bluebird antes up $30M for new Gritstone alliance

Bluebird bio $BLUE is jumping on the AI target-identification platform developed at the neo-antigen biotech Gritstone to identify some new TCR programs for the pipeline.

TCRs have been all the rage recently as biotech follows a tech trail that they believe will lead to a wider range of cancer drug targets to go after — particularly in solid tumors, where cell therapies face some of their biggest challenges. Just days ago bluebird aligned on a T cell receptor development deal with biotech powerhouse Regeneron, bagging $100 million for a 50/50 pact on accelerating new programs.

Andrew Allen

In this new alliance, Gritstone will bird dog the tumor-specific drug targets and natural TCRs as bluebird researchers look to expand a cell therapy pipeline now led by its BCMA-targeting star bb2121. Gritstone will be key in patient identification and will receive a $20 million upfront plus an upcoming $10 million equity investment from bluebird.

The statement doesn’t specify the milestones involved, beyond saying they are “significant.” With $30 million in near-term cash for a discovery deal like this, the biobucks must be substantial.

“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,” said Andrew Allen, the CEO of Gritstone. “We believe that our artificial intelligence-based approach to identifying tumor-specific targets and corresponding, naturally occurring TCRs, combined with bluebird bio’s expertise in gene and cell therapy, will allow us to develop cellular immunotherapies against differentiated oncology targets.”

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