Or­chard dis­creet­ly ax­es li­cense for 'bub­ble boy' gene ther­a­py, de­spite re­cent pos­i­tive long-term da­ta up­date

Less than a month af­ter pub­lish­ing pos­i­tive long-term da­ta for an ex­per­i­men­tal gene ther­a­py, Or­chard Ther­a­peu­tics has qui­et­ly ter­mi­nat­ed its li­cens­ing agree­ment over the pro­gram.

In an 8-K fil­ing to the SEC last Fri­day, Or­chard re­port­ed that it is end­ing the li­cense re­lat­ed to its OTL-101 can­di­date, in de­vel­op­ment to treat adeno­sine deam­i­nase se­vere com­bined im­mun­od­e­fi­cien­cy or ADA-SCID, known col­lo­qui­al­ly as “bub­ble boy syn­drome.” It’s a rare ge­net­ic dis­ease where pa­tients have al­most no im­mune sys­tem what­so­ev­er.

The move comes af­ter Or­chard pub­lished long-term re­sults in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine show­ing all 50 pa­tients who re­ceived the treat­ment were still alive af­ter at least two years. Event-free sur­vival was al­so high, with 97% of US pa­tients and 95% of UK par­tic­i­pants not need­ing to re­turn to pri­or ther­a­pies.

Or­chard had been de­vel­op­ing the ther­a­py af­ter sign­ing the agree­ment with UCLA and Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don back in Feb­ru­ary 2016. The biotech has an­oth­er ther­a­py for ADA-SCID known as Strimvelis, ap­proved in Eu­rope in 2016, but halt­ed dos­ing af­ter a pa­tient treat­ed un­der com­pas­sion­ate use be­gan see­ing treat­ment for leukemia.

The idea be­hind OTL-101 is to use a lentivirus with hematopoi­et­ic stem cells, ad­min­is­tered ex vi­vo, to in­sert a func­tion­al copy of the ADA gene in­to pa­tients’ cells. Or­chard had been look­ing for an ap­proval for a while, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly won break­through ther­a­py des­ig­na­tion for OTL-101 from the FDA.

An FDA green­light had elud­ed Or­chard with the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic forc­ing them to push back plans to sub­mit a rolling ap­proval ap­pli­ca­tion. But last week’s SEC re­port may have been in the works for at least a year.

Back in May 2020, Or­chard an­nounced a new op­er­a­tional strat­e­gy in­volv­ing lay­ing off 25% of its staff and re­struc­tur­ing its pipeline to fo­cus less on rare dis­eases. Part of that re­struc­tur­ing, Or­chard said at the time, was to re­duce in­vest­ment in OTL-101 and an­oth­er pro­gram — steer­ing re­sources in­stead to­ward four oth­er can­di­dates clas­si­fied as “top near-term pri­or­i­ties.”

The pro­grams in­volved are be­ing set up to treat: metachro­mat­ic leukody­s­tro­phy (OTL-200), Wiskott-Aldrich syn­drome (OTL-103), Mu­copolysac­cha­ri­do­sis type I (OTL-203) and Mu­copolysac­cha­ri­do­sis type II­IA, al­so known as San­fil­ip­po syn­drome type A (OTL-201).

Or­chard went pub­lic in 2018, rid­ing a $200 mil­lion IPO af­ter two oth­er nine-fig­ure rounds with a $110 mil­lion Se­ries B and $150 mil­lion Se­ries B. The biotech worked with Glax­o­SmithK­line, too, ac­quir­ing the Big Phar­ma’s rare dis­ease unit — in­clud­ing Strimvelis — in ex­change for rough­ly 20% eq­ui­ty, al­so in 2018. The lack of an FDA-ap­proved prod­uct at this stage, how­ev­er, has left an­a­lysts with ques­tions.

So­cial im­age: Bob­by Gas­par, Or­chard Ther­a­peu­tics CEO

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) with reporters in the Senate Subway (Graeme Sloan/Sipa via AP Images)

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Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

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