bluebird bio and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have announced a collaboration to use their technology platforms to discover, develop and commercialise novel immune cancer cell therapies.

The firms will primarily use Regeneron’s VelociSuite platform technologies to discover and characterise fully human antibodies besides T cell receptors (TCRs) directed against tumour-particular proteins and peptides.

Bluebird Bio will contribute its expertise in gene transfer and cell therapy.

Bluebird Bio chief scientific officer Philip Gregory said: “The collaboration with Regeneron complements bluebird bio’s growing immuno-oncology development portfolio, which includes clinical and pre-clinical CAR T and T cell receptor programs.

“With Regeneron’s proven targeting technologies, in combination with our deep expertise in cell biology and vector technology, as well as clinical experience with leading CAR T cell drug products, we hope to rapidly advance novel cellular therapies with the potential to transform the lives of people with cancer.”

Regeneron president and chief scientific officer George D. Yancopoulos said: “Like Regeneron, bluebird is a science-focused company looking to push the limits of what novel technologies can do in drug discovery and development.

“We believe that the tremendous synergies between Regeneron’s proven technologies and bluebird’s toolbox of advanced cell and gene therapy technologies create a promising opportunity to help people with cancer by developing innovative new treatments. This collaboration adds yet another dimension to our rapidly advancing portfolio of immuno-oncology candidates and combination approaches.”

“We believe that the synergies between Regeneron’s proven technologies and bluebird’s toolbox of cell and gene therapy technologies create a promising opportunity to develop innovative new treatments.”

The firms have chosen six initial targets for their cancer cell therapies and will share the costs of research and development equally until the submission of an Investigational New Drug (IND) application.

Further targets may be chosen over the five-year term of research collaboration.

Once an IND is submitted for a potential cancer cell therapy product, Regeneron will secure the right to opt-in to a co-development or co-commercialisation arrangement for some collaboration targets, with 50/50 cost and profit sharing.

In case Regeneron does not opt-in, then it will be eligible to secure milestone payments and royalties from Bluebird Bio for any potential products resulting from the collaboration.

Additionally, Regeneron will make a $100m investment in Bluebird Bio common stock at a price of $238.10 per share, representing a premium of 59% over the $150 closing price on 3 August.

The around $37m premium will be credited against Regeneron’s 50% funding obligation initially for basic collaboration research. Following this, the firms will fund ongoing research equally.

This deal is subject to preclearance by the Federal Trade Commission under applicable antitrust laws.