British gene therapy company Oxford BioMedica has inked a deal worth up to $100 million to supply materials to Bioverativ, the gene therapy maker who just got snatched by Sanofi for $11.6 billion.
Oxford BioMedica only got $5 million up front, but could get milestone payments of $100 million down the road, along with royalties on sales of the hemophilia treatments Bioverativ is developing.
Oxford BioMedica is not new to the gene therapy game — the public company was listed in London in 1996. But thanks to Spark Therapeutics, which got the FDA OK to treat blindness with gene therapy drug Luxturna late last year, the entire field is now coming of age. And now Oxford BioMedica is cashing in.
The new deal will get Bioverativ access to Oxford’s lentiviruses, which will be used as vectors to get DNA into a patient’s cell. It’s a different branch of gene therapy than used by high-flying players like Spark and the much-talked-about Solid Biosciences. Those companies are using adeno-associated viruses, or AAV, as vectors — a method that, when used in high doses, has recently been called into question by a pioneer in the field, Penn professor James Wilson.
Wilson surprised the gene therapy community late last month when he quit the advisor board of Solid Biosciences and raised alarms about the potential toxicity of high-dose AAV studies. Unlike Solid Bio, Spark did not need high-doses of AAV to make Luxturna work.
It will be interesting to see if gene therapy players begin turning more frequently to lentiviruses, with hopes that they might prove to be a safer option. Players like bluebird bio and Avrobio fall in the lentivirus camp.
“Today’s news demonstrates the value of our LentiVector Enabled platform and our leading capabilities and reputation in the industrial scale-up for lentiviral vectors for clinical and commercial supply,” said Oxford’s CEO John Dawson in a statement. “Bioverativ’s investment in hemophilia gene therapy underlines the potential of lentiviral vectors for use for in vivo gene therapy.”
This isn’t the first deal of its kind by Oxford. The company signed a similar $100 million deal last year to supply lentiviral vectors for Novartis’s pioneering leukemia treatment Kymriah.
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