National Resilience forks over $110M for North Carolina manufacturing site in bluebird bio cell therapy partnership

National Resilience, a venture-backed biopharma manufacturing specialist, has made waves since debuting last year with $800 million in funding. In its latest move, the new player is inking a cell therapy partnership with a high-profile partner and once again expanding its manufacturing footprint. 

National Resilience and bluebird bio on Wednesday unveiled a collaboration intended to speed research, development and delivery of next-gen cell therapies. As part of the deal, National Resilience will pay bluebird $110 million upfront and get its hands on a commercial suspension lentiviral vector manufacturing site in North Carolina, where more than 100 people work.

The deal is designed to allow bluebird bio’s oncology cell therapy spinoff—dubbed 2seventy bio—and Resilience to focus on their respective specialties of R&D and manufacturing. Bluebird plans to spin off 2seventy by the end of the year. 

Moving forward, Resilience will provide bluebird bio and 2seventy bio with access to viral vector supplies from the North Carolina plant. Resilience plans to keep all of bluebird's employees and expand on the current production footprint.

Further, the partners plan to share expenses and revenues for cell therapies that come from the collaboration. 

RELATED: National Resilience, months after launching with $800M, snags Sanofi biomanufacturing plant 

National Resilience launched in November 2020 with more than $800 million in funding from ARCH Venture Partners, 8VC and other venture firms. It aims to tackle the well-documented challenges for the pharma supply chain that have become so clear during the pandemic.

Since launching, Resilience has picked up a 310,000-square-foot Sanofi site in Boston and another 250,000-square-foot site in Canada. And in April, the company picked up biologic drug substance maker Ology Bioservices, adding 300 new employees and 200,000 square feet of workspace into the mix. 

For its part, bluebird bio has had its hands full in recent months as it has responded to the safety scare for its key gene therapy Zynteglo. Earlier this year, a phase 1/2 trial in sickle cell disease turned up two blood cancer cases for the therapy, but the company investigated the situation and said the drug was not likely the cause. The FDA has recently cleared the drug to resume late-stage testing. 

RELATED: Bluebird names oncology spinoff, establishes leadership team 

Meanwhile, bluebird halted its rollout in its first launch country, Germany, after failing to reach a reimbursement deal there. As a result, the company pulled the drug from the market and unveiled plans to “reduce and reshape” its workforce in the region. 

Bluebird’s oncology pipeline includes drugs targeting multiple myeloma, Merkel cell carcinoma, acute myeloid leukemia and other diseases, all of which are set to move to 2seventy bio through the spinoff.