Cell-based therapy developer BlueRock Therapeutics said today it will receive $1 million from New York State for establishing a neuroscience R&D hub in New York City—a hub whose activity will include a new research collaboration with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), from which the company was spun out in 2016.

Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, BlueRock is building out a 7800-square-foot space within the Alexandria Center for Life Science, the 728,000-square-foot Manhattan campus operated by Alexandria Real Estate Equities.

The campus is located between Bellevue Hospital and NYU Medical Center. BlueRock said the location will help connect the company to top academic and medical institutions as well as major hospitals; scientific, clinical, and entrepreneurial talent; investment capital; and the city’s growing commercial life science industry.

The R&D hub will be BlueRock’s third location, next to its Cambridge HQ and a research, development, and manufacturing hub within the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.

In return for creating the R&D hub in New York City, BlueRock said, it will receive $1 million from New York State and its economic development agency, Empire State Development, under its economic development initiatives program. The company said it may be eligible for additional future tax incentives as the program matures.

Among activities to be overseen by the R&D hub is BlueRock’s new collaboration with MSK. The collaboration—whose value was not disclosed—focuses on translating MSK expertise in creating multiple types of authentic neural cells from stem cells to make therapeutics to address disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system.

“This new facility in New York will allow for a closer and more effective collaboration between myself, MSK, and the world class scientific team that BlueRock has formed,” Lorenz Studer, M.D., a scientific co-founder of BlueRock, said in a statement.

Dr. Studer is founder and director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at MSK. He and his collaborator and spouse, neurosurgeon Viviane Tabar, M.D., joined with Gordon Keller, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto and the McEwen Centre for Generative Medicine to launch BlueRock Therapeutics in December 2016 with $225 million in Series A financing committed by Bayer and Versant Ventures.

Treating Parkinson’s Disease

BlueRock plans to apply Dr. Studer’s expertise in developing neural cells from stem cells to develop stem cell-derived, dopamine-producing neurons for the treatment of patients with Parkinson's disease. BlueRock said it also plans to leverage Dr. Studer's protocols for creating a broad range of different neural cells that have the potential to address numerous disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system.

Dr. Studer is a recipient of the 2015 MacArthur “Genius” Award and the 2017 Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize.

Dr. Tabar will serve as transplant surgeon in the first-in-human clinical trial of BlueRock's Parkinson's disease cell therapy. Dr. Tabar is newly announced chair of MSK’s department of neurosurgery, founding investigator of BlueRock, and a member elected in October 2017 to the National Academy of Medicine.

“The establishment of BlueRock's R&D hub in New York marks a tremendous milestone for the company as it will serve as the location for the development of our neuroscience program and positions us in close proximity to our collaborators, Drs. Studer and Tabar, which will speed our R&D efforts,” added BlueRock president and CEO Emile Nuwaysir, Ph.D. “We plan to rapidly expand our team in New York City to drive our neuroscience R&D efforts, and we look forward to tapping into the workforce in one of the strongest innovation clusters in the world.”

New York City is the center of a larger New York/New Jersey regional biopharma cluster that ranked number three on GEN’s 2017 list of Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters, behind the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston/Cambridge, MA. New York City says it is home to more than 7000 university graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, part of a life-sci sector that has enjoyed 16% job growth since 2009.

Earlier this year, the New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) issued a formal request for proposals from companies, institutions, or joint ventures interested in developing a $100 million “Applied Life Sciences Hub” in any of three sites proposed for the project by the public-private agency. The deadline has been extended to May 17 at 4 p.m.

New York City and New York State have jockeyed in recent years to advance the life sciences, reflecting a desire to attract the growing industry as well as the political rivalry between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who is seeking re-election this year.

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