bluebird bio will use Medigene’s T-cell receptor (TCR) platform to develop TCR cancer immunotherapy candidates against four undisclosed targets, the companies said today, through a collaboration that could generate more than $1 billion for Medigene.

The collaboration is designed to combine Medigene’s TCR isolation and characterization platform with bluebird bio’s lentiviral vector, genome-editing, synthetic biology, and manufacturing capabilities, the companies said.

“With its T-cell immunotherapy expertise and outstanding gene delivery and genome-editing capabilities, bluebird bio is an ideal partner for us to jointly discover and develop a new generation of T-cell therapeutics to treat unmet oncology indications,” Dolores J. Schendel, Medigene CEO and CSO, said in a statement.

Medigene agreed to oversee generation and delivery of TCRs to bluebird bio. Both companies will jointly be responsible for preclinical development of all product candidates, whereas bluebird will oversee clinical development and commercialization of products created through the collaboration.

The companies’ strategic research and development collaboration and licensing agreement give  bluebird bio worldwide development and commercial rights and an exclusive license for intellectual property covering the TCRs.

Under the companies’ agreement, bluebird bio agreed to pay Medigene $15 million upfront, as well as payments tied to achieving preclinical, clinical, and commercial milestones that could total more than $1 billion.

In addition, bluebird bio has agreed to pay Medigene R&D funding, and tiered royalties on net sales up to a double-digit percentage, Medigene and bluebird bio said.

bluebird’s oncology pipeline is led by bb2121, a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy targeting B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) that won the FDA’s orphan drug designation for multiple myeloma in May. bb2121 is being developed by bluebird through a collaboration with Celgene, which has opted to license the candidate exclusively. In February, the first patient was infused with bb2121 in the Phase I CRB-401 study, which is assessing the candidate in relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma.

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