Bayer, Versant Ventures to form JV for stem cell therapy technology

German chemicals and healthcare group Bayer AG yesterday said that had set up a joint venture with US healthcare investment firm Versant Ventures to invest $225 million in stem cell therapy technology.

Bayer and Versant Ventures will establish BlueRock Therapeutics, a next-generation regenerative medicine company that plans to develop best-in-class induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) therapies to cure a range of diseases, with an initial focus on cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.

''Accessing cell based therapies is part of Bayer's strategy. We are launching this enterprise to develop transformative and curative therapies for patients based on the latest stem cell technology,'' said Kemal Malik, member of the board of Bayer.

''We have partnered with Versant Ventures to build a leading player in this field by securing exclusive access to these breakthrough technologies for BlueRock,'' he added.

BlueRock Therapeutics will have research and development operations in Toronto, New York and Boston.

The manufacturing platform at BlueRock Therapeutics will be in partnership with the Toronto-based CCRM, a leader in developing and commercialising regenerative medicine technologies, and cell and gene therapies.

One of BlueRock Therapeutics' initial programs is to regenerate heart muscle in patients who have had a heart attack (myocard infarction, MI) or are suffering from chronic heart failure, leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

The goal of the program is to restore the electrical and contractile function of injured hearts through remuscularization with pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes.

''We have closely tracked the field of regenerative medicine for the past five years and believe the time is right to invest in stem cell therapies given recent breakthroughs in cell differentiation, manufacturing and engineering,'' says Dr. Jerel Davis, managing director at Versant Ventures.