Blackstone, which last year started up a life sciences investing arm, is pouring $400 million into a venture with a Swiss pharmaceutical firm to develop and commercialize a gene therapy for bladder cancer.

Blackstone’s investment seeks to spur FerGene, a newly founded subsidiary of Ferring Pharmaceuticals, as it develops nadofaragene firadenovec, a virus-based therapy for “high-grade, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) unresponsive, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.” Ferring will put $170 million into the company.

Patients with the particular cancer have “seen little improvement in their standard of care over the past twenty years,” the companies said in a statement.

Blackstone and other private equity companies are joining global tech firms in making big bets on the future of healthcare, a $7 trillion market according to estimates. Last week, private equity firm GHO Capital Partners, reflecting European investors’ bullishness, topped expectations by raising almost $1.1 billion for its second healthcare-focused fund. Apple, Google parent Alphabet, Amazon are among tech firms leveraging their networking, digital and artificial intelligence prowess and expanding into insurance, health databases, wearable devices, medical products distribution and other areas.

The Ferring investment isn’t Blackstone’s first healthcare venture. Last year it bought healthcare investing fund Clarus, which it used as a platform to launch its Life Sciences unit. That unit made its first investment in a blood-clot treatment with Novartis.

The New York private equity firm, which for the past few years has been known for huge real estate and logistics bets, said last year that it has spent more than $19 billion in healthcare and healthcare-related transactions across more than 40 deals. It said it’s also the world’s second-largest owner of life sciences office space in the world. 

  • Nadofaragene firadenovec is in late Phase 3 development, and has been granted Breakthrough Therapy designation by the FDA. Its so-called biologics license application was granted Priority Review by the FDA.
  • The therapy is based on a virus that enters through the bladder wall with a catheter
  • Phase 3 clinical trial results will be presented Dec. 5.
  • FerGene will hold the marketing authorization of nadofaragene firadenovec in the U.S. if it’s approved.