Bayer Teams Up With Versant In A $225 Million Biotech Venture

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Bayer German healthcare group; announced on Monday, that it has set up a partnership with Versant Ventures to invest $225 million in a stem cell research company. Both companies say the financing will allow researchers to focus on studying and developing treatments for cardiovascular disease as well as neurodegenerative disorders over the next four years.

“The scientists can really focus for four years on bringing this a huge step forward, instead of struggling for financing every other year,” stated Axel Bouchon, who leads the Bayer Life Science Center.

The venture (BlueRock Therapeutics), is predicted to begin employing between 30 to 40 people in Toronto with 70 to 80 total worldwide. Its primary base will be out of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District which is one of the world’s largest innovation hubs. BlueRock is partnering with the Center for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicines (CCRM); which is also based at MaRS, in order to help scale production of multiple stem cells. This is one of the critical elements that executives say sets the venture apart.

“We continue to be more and more bullish on Canada because of the early successes we’ve seen,” says Jerel Davis, a managing director at Versant Ventures.

“We go where the science is best. We believe Toronto is emerging as a center of excellence for regenerative medicine.”

Toronto is where stem cells were first identified. It also has one of the highest numbers of stem cell researchers in the world within its scientific community. BlueRock will create a variety of projects with a primary focus on cardiovascular diseases which is the leading cause of death in the world, as per the World Health Organization; as well as neurodegenerative disorders such as: Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

“(You have) something that is actually chronically treated at general hospitals and so on, versus you have something that is a true, let’s hope, once-off treatment and then it’s cured,” said Bouchon. “The whole paradigm will shift.”

Executives say that the company; which will also have research and development operations in New York and Boston, hopes to launch its first clinical trial by 2018.

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