After 12 months of digging, Pfizer opts for one of two Voyager capsids for gene therapy
The path at Voyager Therapeutics keeps winding, and at the 12-month deadline, Pfizer has elected to only move forward with one of two capsids out of the preclinical biotech for the Big Pharma’s AAV gene therapies.
Last October, the Big Pharma and biotech linked arms on a deal that gave Pfizer the ability to hit the gas pedal on two capsids: one for a cardiac target and the other for a rare neurologic disease target.
Pfizer is only going with the latter one, the biotech said Tuesday morning, triggering a $10 million payment to Voyager after last year’s initial $30 million upfront. With that, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech’s shot at $580 million in backloaded payments has shrunk in half.
Voyager’s shares $VYGR quickly rose about 12% after Tuesday’s opening bell.
Al Sandrock, Voyager CEO and famed former head of R&D at Biogen, said in an emailed statement to Endpoints News that the biotech “cannot comment on Pfizer’s internal program decisions” with regard to the choice to not move forward on the cardiac front. Endpoints has reached out to Pfizer for comment and will update accordingly.
Sandrock elaborated that Voyager’s initial focus on its so-called TRACER capsid discovery work has been around central nervous system diseases.
“This is where we have gathered the most data and established clear differentiation,” the CEO wrote in his statement. “We are excited about the potential of the platform to target other tissues, such as cardiac and skeletal muscle, and we will continue to gather data in these areas.”
Since hopping aboard the biotech’s ship in the spring, Sandrock has course-corrected — after setbacks prior to his tenure squashed hopes in Parkinson’s and Huntington’s treatments — and added to his leadership team.
In early August, the biotech fine-tuned its preclinical pipeline to focus on GBA1 Parkinson’s, SOD1 ALS (a rare form of the disease for which Biogen awaits a drug approval decision by Jan. 25, 2023) and Alzheimer’s, the memory-robbing disease that comprised a bulk of Sandrock’s work at his former employer, which last week touted Phase III data on an Aduhelm follow-up.
In the intervening weeks, Voyager promoted research SVP Todd Carter to CSO — originally joining in 2016 after serving as science advisor to the Broad Institute’s director — and hired CFO Peter Pfreundschuh, coming from the same post at Frequency Therapeutics.