US-based biotechnology companies bluebird bio and Gritstone Oncology have entered into strategic collaboration for the development of new cancer cell therapies.

Under the partnership, the two companies will be responsible for carrying out research, as well as developing and commercialising products for the treatment of cancer using cell therapy.

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As part of the agreement, Gritstone Oncology will use its EDGE artificial intelligence platform to study specific tumour types that would help identify tumour-specific targets and natural T-cell receptors (TCRs) directed to the targets for use in bluebird bio’s established cell therapy platforms.

The EDGE technology platform will enable the company to make patient selection for the clinical development of the therapies.

Gritstone Oncology president and CEO Dr Andrew Allen said: “We believe that our artificial intelligence-based approach to identifying tumour-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.”

“We believe that our artificial intelligence-based approach to identifying  targets combined with Bluebird Bio’s expertise in gene and cell therapy will allow us to develop cellular immunotherapies.”

Under the terms of the deal, the company will offer ten tumour-specific targets across several tumour types and, in certain cases, TCRs directed to the targets to Bluebird Bio.

Bluebird Bio will be committed in carrying out all development, production and commercial activities for the cancer treatment products.

Bluebird Bio chief scientific officer Dr Philip Gregory said: “By combining our expertise in gene and cell therapy with Gritstone Oncology’s unique target identification and TCR technology, we hope to bring the power of cell therapy to a broader set of newly-validated targets, enabling us to treat previously unaddressable patient populations.”

With the deal, Gritstone Oncology will be entitled to receive an upfront payment of $20m along with an additional payment of $10m in the form of a Series C preferred equity investment.