Bluebird split puts oncology assets in a stand alone entity

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Emerging US-based gene therapy company bluebird bio has announced plans to spin-out its oncology division that includes a CAR-T therapy being commercialised globally by Bristol Myers Squibb.

bluebird is most well-known for its gene therapy for the treatment of transfusion-dependent β-thalassemia. The therapy is approved in Europe as ZYNTEGLO. The company suffered a setback late last year when the FDA demanded additional information on the commercial production of the therapy that is called LENTIGLOBIN in the US.

The company subsequently said it does not expect a US launch of LENTIGLOBIN until 2022. It is also developing gene therapies for cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy and sickle cell disease.

bluebird is yet to establish a corporate presence in Australia but it recently announced plans for its "geographic expansion into additional countries".

It has now announced it will separate and become two publicly-traded companies. 

The oncology company - blue oncology - will start life with a portfolio headlined by investigative multiple myeloma CAR-T therapy idecabtagene vicleucel.

Bristol Myers Squibb gained ex-US global rights to the therapy as part of its acquisition of Celgene. The company has rights to another bluebird investigational CAR-T therapy, bb21217.

The oncology company will be led by bluebird's current CEO Nick Leschly. Mr Leschly will also be appointed executive chair of bluebird bio.

The president of bluebird bio’s severe genetic diseases business, Andrew Obenshain, will become CEO and lead the company that will maintain a singular focus on rare genetic disease.

The company said its US$1.3 billion in cash and cash equivalents will be used to "capitalize each business with sufficient cash runway to achieve value creating milestones." 

It separation is anticipated to take effect in the fourth quarter of 2021.