The day after it officially spun off its cancer drug unit to a new publicly traded firm, Bluebird Bio said Friday it plans to move most of its employees next spring from Cambridge to a life sciences complex under construction in Somerville.
Bluebird, which is developing gene therapies to treat rare inherited illnesses, plans to move about 425 employees to a 61,000-square-foot building at Assembly Row that it will lease as its new headquarters from Federal Realty. More than 70 Bluebird employees will continue to occupy laboratory space and other offices at 60 Binney St. in Cambridge through 2023.
The announcement came the day after Bluebird completed a spinoff of its oncology programs to the new firm, 2seventy bio, which will begin trading Friday on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the ticker symbol “TSVT.” Bluebird said in January that it was splitting into two publicly traded companies. Bluebird will focus on gene therapies for rare disorders such as sickle cell disease, while 2seventy will work on cell therapies for cancer.
“Over the past 18 months, we have transformed the way we work and live as we’ve navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic and reestablished ourselves as a company focused on pursuing curative gene therapies for severe genetic disease,” said Jason Cole, Bluebird’s chief business officer.
The move to Somerville will result in $120 million in savings over six years to Bluebird and support “increased fiscal discipline and investment in our core programs and pipeline,” Cole said. Binney Street is home to such drug makers as Sanofi Genzyme and Biogen and is one of the most expensive locations for commercial real estate in Massachusetts.
Bluebird is working on gene therapies for severe inherited illnesses, including the blood disorders sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. Created with money from the Boston venture capital firm Third Rock Ventures, it won approval of its first gene therapy in 2019, when the European Medicines Agency granted conditional marketing authorization in the European Union for Zynteglo as a one-time treatment for transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia.
2seventy wants to treat a variety of forms of cancer, including those that affect the blood and cause solid tumors. It has two experimental drugs that executives hope to begin testing in clinical trials the first half of 2022.
The new firm has about 375 employees at 60 Binney St., where it shares 30,000 square feet of lab space with Bluebird. It has another 75 employees at a research facility in Seattle.
Nick Leschly, who served as Bluebird’s chief executive since 2010 and is known for wearing colorful running shoes at work, is the new CEO of 2seventy. He brought several Bluebird C-suite executives with him, including its chief financial officer, William “Chip” Baird, and chief scientific officer, Philip Gregory.
Leschly gave this explanation in May for 2seventy’s name: “Two hundred seventy miles per hour is the maximum speed of human thought,” or how fast neural signals travel in the brain
“The name 2seventy was selected to signify this speed and our team’s translation of thought to action” in the treatment of cancer, he said.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at email@example.com.