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Bluebird Bio to Separate Oncology Business Into Standalone Company

NEW YORK – Bluebird Bio on Monday announced it was splitting its genetic disease and oncology business units into two separate publicly traded companies.

Bluebird will continue to focus on severe genetic disease, while the oncology business will be a new company. The plan has been approved by Bluebird's board of directors and the new oncology firm will be tax-free to shareholders once the Internal Revenue Service issues a favorable ruling. 

Nick Leschly, Bluebird CEO, will be chief executive of the new oncology company and its executive chair. Daniel Lynch, current chair of Bluebird's board of directors, will head up the oncology firm's board. Meanwhile, Bluebird added another oncology expert, Ramy Ibrahim, former chief medical officer at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, to its board. 

"After careful strategic review, it is clear to us that the [genetic disease and oncology] businesses are best served by independent leadership and teams to drive distinct strategic and operational objectives," Leschly said in a statement. "Specifically, we believe it is the right time to double down on the respective businesses to fully enable and optimize the continued innovation, development and deployment of transformative gene and cell therapies for the patients we serve."

The oncology company will focus on advancing cellular thereapies for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, acute myeloid leukemia, multiple myeloma, and solid tumors, and aim to advance one or two investigational new drug applications in 2021 and 2022. Specifically, the firm will advance commercialization plans for the BCMA-directed CAR T-cell therapy idecabtagene vicleucel (ide-cel) in multiple myeloma and continue development of the investigational bb21217, which contains the same CAR molecule as ide-cel but is cultured with a PI3 kinase inhibitor. Researchers will continue to study the activity of these products in earlier settings. 

The separation of the businesses is subject to customary closing conditions, final board approval, and is slated to be completed in Q4 2021. Additional financial details, as well as the name of the new oncology company, will be released at a later date. Both companies will likely be headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Bluebird's research and manufacturing operations in Seattle and Durham will be integrated with the oncology firm. 

Bluebird said it will capitalize each business with enough cash to achieve milestones. As of Dec. 31, the company estimated it had around $1.3 billion in unaudited cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities.