A biotech that has been developing new treatments for cancer and cures for severe genetic diseases will soon become a pair of more-focused independent companies. On Monday, bluebird bio (BLUE 2.30%) announced its intent to spin off its oncology business.
The transition is expected to take place this year. The rare disease treatment portfolio will remain with bluebird bio, and the current president of that segment of the company, Andrew Obenshain, will become its CEO. Nick Leschly, bluebird bio's current CEO, will take the helm of the spin-off, currently being called Oncology Newco.
Bluebird won't have any trouble convincing investors it needs to focus more closely on its programs for severe genetic diseases. About a year and a half ago, the European Commission granted conditional marketing approval for Zynteglo as a gene-therapy treatment for certain patients with transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia. An unfortunately slow commercial launch, though, has limited total revenue to less than 10% of bluebird bio's research and development budget.
In November, bluebird disclosed that the FDA had requested more information regarding Zynteglo's manufacturing process as it transitions from clinical trials to commercial-stage production. This will probably keep the company from submitting its FDA application until late 2022.
In partnership with Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY -1.15%), Oncology Newco could launch ide-cel this spring for multiple myeloma patients who have run out of treatment options. In September, the FDA began a priority review that should be a slam dunk. During a clinical trial supporting the application, treatment with ide-cel shrank tumors for 73% of patients and helped 33% achieve complete remission.