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.
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.
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