Sanofi Gen­zyme deserts gene ther­a­py de­vel­op­er Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics

While gene ther­a­py com­pa­nies re­joice as the sec­tor gains trac­tion with ap­provals and a flur­ry of M&A ac­tiv­i­ty, one play­er is feel­ing the heat.

Back in 2015, Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics joined forces with Sanofi Gen­zyme in a deal worth up to $845 mil­lion ($100 mil­lion up­front + a po­ten­tial $745 mil­lion in mile­stones) to co-de­vel­op gene ther­a­pies for se­vere cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem dis­or­ders. But two years lat­er, the French drug­mak­er re­treat­ed, elect­ing to not pick up the op­tion to work on Voy­ager’s Parkin­son’s dis­ease pro­gram. (Last year, the FDA dis­ap­point­ed Voy­ager, telling the com­pa­ny that it was not open to an ac­cel­er­at­ed fil­ing on the Parkin­son’s drug on the ba­sis of Phase II da­ta — in­stead re­quir­ing an ad­di­tion­al piv­otal study.)

Sanofi Gen­zyme’s re­treat now re­sem­bles a de­ser­tion.

On Mon­day, Voy­ager $VY­GR said Sanofi Gen­zyme is walk­ing away from op­tions to ac­quire US co-com­mer­cial­iza­tion rights and ex-US de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion rights to ex­per­i­men­tal Hunt­ing­ton’s dis­ease drug VY-HTT01 and to Friedre­ich’s atax­ia pro­gram VY-FXN01; and a fu­ture Voy­ager CNS or­phan pro­gram. In ad­di­tion, Voy­ager and Sanofi Gen­zyme’s al­liance on SMA has al­so been ter­mi­nat­ed —  the in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights of the pro­gram are be­ing re­turned/ex­clu­sive­ly li­censed to Sanofi Gen­zyme.

Con­se­quent­ly, Voy­ager has agreed to give $10 mil­lion up­front to Sanofi Gen­zyme, and an ad­di­tion­al $10 mil­lion mile­stone pay­ment up­on the po­ten­tial fil­ing of an ap­pli­ca­tion to test in hu­mans the Hunt­ing­ton’s dis­ease drug, VY-HTT01 or, cer­tain back­up com­pounds, as well as po­ten­tial roy­al­ties. In ad­di­tion, Voy­ager is al­so of­fer­ing Sanofi Gen­zyme ex­clu­sive dibs to se­lect AAV cap­sids from its ar­se­nal of drugs in de­vel­op­ment in up to two non-CNS in­di­ca­tions.

Re­cent­ly, Voy­ager has been busy shop­ping for oth­er part­ners. It has inked deals with Ab­b­Vie and Neu­ro­crine this year.

On Mon­day, Voy­ager trans­ferred the ex-US rights to the Sanofi-aban­doned Friedre­ich’s atax­ia pro­gram to Neu­ro­crine. The com­pa­ny al­so sig­naled that it plans to part­ner out its ALS gene ther­a­py, VY-SOD102, (and no longer plans to file an IND for it this year), to fo­cus its re­sources on Hunt­ing­ton’s.

“While it is un­clear ex­act­ly who might be look­ing to in-li­cense this pro­gram, Bio­gen might serve as an in­ter­est­ing can­di­date giv­en their ex­ist­ing work on SOD1 with their an­ti­sense oligonu­cleotide (ASO), tofersen, and close prox­im­i­ty giv­en both com­pa­nies are based in Cam­bridge. How­ev­er, if Bio­gen were to do this deal it might al­so be an ear­ly sig­nal to in­vestors that they view gene ther­a­py as strong al­ter­na­tive to their ASO port­fo­lio, po­ten­tial­ly ac­cept­ing that Zol­gens­ma is go­ing to be a strong com­peti­tor in SMA,” Baird’s Bri­an Sko­r­ney wrote in a note.

So­cial im­age: Shut­ter­stock

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

#ES­MO20: Push­ing in­to front­line, Mer­ck and Bris­tol My­ers duke it out with new slate of GI can­cer da­ta

Having worked in parallel for years to move their respective PD-1 inhibitors up to the first-line treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb finally have the data at ESMO for a showdown.

Comparing KEYNOTE-590 and CheckMate-649, of course, comes with the usual caveats. But a side-by-side look at the overall survival numbers also offer some perspective on a new frontier for the reigning checkpoint rivals, both of whom are claiming to have achieved a first.

UP­DAT­ED: Two wild weeks for Grail end in $8B Il­lu­mi­na buy­out

Grail’s whirlwind two weeks have ended in the wealthy arms of its former founder and benefactors.

Illumina has shelled out $8 billion to reacquire the closely-watched liquid biopsy startup they spun out just 5 years ago and sold off much of its shares just 3 years ago. The deal comes nearly two weeks after the well-heeled startup filed for a potentially massive IPO — one that was disrupted just a week later when Bloomberg reported that Illumina was in talks to buy their former spinout for up to $8 billion.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Roche vaults to the front of the NL­RP3 clin­i­cal race, pay­ing $448M up­front to bag In­fla­zome

Roche is going all in on NLRP3.

The pharma giant is putting down $448 million (€380 million) upfront to snatch Novartis-backed Inflazome, which makes it a clinical player in the space overnight.

Dublin and Cambridge, UK-based Inflazome is the second NLRP3-focused biotech Roche has acquired in less than two years, and although no numbers were disclosed in the Jecure buyout, this is almost certainly a much larger deal.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Frank Zhang (AP Images)

Rocked by cus­toms in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Leg­end's CFO takes over as CEO Frank Zhang placed un­der house ar­rest

When Frank Zhang stepped down from GenScript — the contract research group he’s run for 18 years — to take up the CEO post at its CAR-T focused spinout Legend Biotech, he assured analysts that he was in for the long haul.

Just 49 days later, though, he’s been forced to hand back the title.

In a dramatic turn of events, Legend disclosed that Zhang is under house arrest in China as part of a customs investigation involving GenScript. While he remains the chairman, CFO Ying Huang has been tapped to double as interim CEO.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sebastian Nijman (file photo)

Roche looks to ge­net­ic mod­i­fiers for new drug tar­gets, team­ing up with Dutch biotech in $375M deal

Roche is gambling on a new way of discovering drug targets and, ultimately, promising to infuse more than $375 million into a small biotech if all goes well.

A spinout of the Netherlands Cancer Institute and Oxford University, Scenic Biotech set out to pioneer a field that’s gaining some traction among top VCs in the US: to harness the natural protecting powers of genetic modifiers — specific genes that suppress a disease phenotype.

Donald Trump, AP

Covid-19 roundup: Trump sug­gests Pfiz­er vac­cine could be first ap­proved; VBI Vac­cines inks de­vel­op­ment deal with Cana­da

President Donald Trump commented Monday morning that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate could be the first to win approval by regulators.

During an interview on a Fox News’ morning show, the president said Pfizer was doing “very well” when asked which candidate could be approved, according to a Reuters report. He added that J&J could follow up afterward, saying “they’ll probably be a little later.”

Is­raeli biotech rais­es $57M to go where cur­rent BRAF in­hibitors can't, with back­ing from No­var­tis, SR One

For the blockbuster potential of Novartis’ Tafinlar and Pfizer’s Braftovi, all the BRAF inhibitors on the market so far only target V600 mutations — which accounts for roughly 50% of patients.

Israeli biotech Novellus now has $57 million to develop a drug that they say can help the other 50% who have everything else.

The Series C will fund a Phase II trial for PLX-8394, a “paradox breaker” that could block RAF without activating MAPK signaling. In a Phase I trial, a patient with a BRAF fusion saw their tumor go away after taking the drug, allowing Novellus to hit the ground running.

Clay Siegall (Life Science Washington via YouTube)

#ES­MO20: Seat­tle Ge­net­ics eyes 4th ap­proval with new da­ta in a crowd­ed field

Does Seattle Genetics have another approval on its hands?

The last 12 months, not so great for the world, has been great for Seattle Genetics. The company landed two separate FDA approvals, signed a $4.5 billion deal with Merck and watched antibody-drug conjugates — the technology they spent years developing to broad industry skepticism — emerge suddenly as one of the most popular approaches in oncology. And on Monday at ESMO, the company and their partners at Genmab unveiled the data behind the ADC it hopes will provide its next major FDA approval.