German pharmaceutical Bayer is buying BlueRock Therapeutics for $240 million in cash upfront to advance its presence in cell therapies. 

Bayer already had a 40.8 percent stake in BlueRock, which it launched through a joint venture with venture capital firm Versant Ventures in 2016 with a $225 million series A financing. It will now fully own the privately held U.S.-based biotech focused on developing engineered cell therapies in the fields of neurology, cardiology and immunology, using a proprietary induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform. BlueRock will be an independent unit of Bayer.

BlueRock’s investors are also eligible for up to another $360 million based upon achievement of pre-defined development milestones. The deal values BlueRock at $1 billion.

“With the expertise and support of Bayer, we will be even better positioned to pursue the discovery, development and commercialization of revolutionary new cell therapies for patients suffering from diseases previously thought of as intractable,” said Emile Nuwaysir, CEO of BlueRock.

BlueRock’s iPSC technology platform takes donor cells, turns them into induced pluripotent stem cells, and then reprograms them into cells of interest depending on the degenerative disease it is aiming to treat. Its lead program in Parkinson’s disease is expected to enter the clinic by the end of 2019.

Parkinson’s disease is one of the fastest growing neurodegenerative diseases in prevalence, disability and mortality. The primary and most debilitating symptom of Parkinson’s disease is a progressive loss of motor control. BlueRock’s stem cell therapy aims to restore function in the human brain and reverse degenerative disease, potentially restoring motor function for the more than seven million patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease globally.

Photo: Emile Nuwaysir, CEO of BlueRock

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