Vec­talys and Flash­Cell merge in­to Flash Ther­a­peu­tics, loaded with RNA pipeline and man­u­fac­tur­ing set-up

Pas­cale Bouil­lé (La Tri­bune Toulouse / Bor­deaux, YouTube)

Two gene ther­a­py com­pa­nies in France are merg­ing to cre­ate one ven­ture called Flash Ther­a­peu­tics, com­bin­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing know-how with a pipeline of RNA drug prospects.

The merg­er is be­tween Vec­talys, a Toulouse-based mak­er of lentivi­ral vec­tors, and its spin­out start­up Flash­Cell, which launched out of Vec­talys just last year to tack­le RNA car­ri­ers for drug ap­pli­ca­tions.

The CEO of the com­bined com­pa­ny, Pas­cale Bouil­lé, tells me the merg­er part­ly came down to bio­man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­tri­al log­ic.

“Man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ty is crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of this new field, so it makes sense to in­te­grate man­u­fac­tur­ing with the ther­a­peu­tics busi­ness and to lever­age our lentivi­ral de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­per­tise with oth­er in­dus­try play­ers,” Bouil­lé said.

Flash will be tasked with ad­vanc­ing nov­el RNA drugs based on the com­pa­ny’s Lenti­Flash tech­nol­o­gy, a pro­pri­etary lentivi­ral de­liv­ery method. Lentivirus­es, a sub­class of retro­virus­es, are used as vec­tors for gene ther­a­py thanks to their abil­i­ty to in­te­grate in­to the genome of non-di­vid­ing cells. That’s a unique fea­ture, as oth­er retro­virus­es can in­fect on­ly di­vid­ing cells.

Bouil­lé tells me cur­rent lentivi­ral vec­tors are a lead­ing de­liv­ery method for CAR-T and oth­er ge­net­ic dis­eases that re­quire sta­ble, long-term ex­pres­sion. But some next-gen im­munother­a­py (for ex­am­ple, those in­volv­ing cell types be­yond T cells) may need tran­sient ex­pres­sion rather than in­te­gra­tive, long-term ex­pres­sion. En­ter Lenti­Flash, which is “non-in­te­gra­tive,” al­low­ing tran­sient and short-term RNA ex­pres­sion.

Flash Ther­a­peu­tics will take on the dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment of “stand­alone pro­grams in the ar­eas of liv­er and blood dis­ease” that were based on Lenti­Flash and cul­ti­vat­ed at Flash­Cell over the past year.

The com­pa­ny’s lentivi­ral de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion busi­ness, which will con­tin­ue to op­er­ate un­der the Vec­talys man­u­fac­tur­ing plat­form name, will ex­pand as part of Flash Ther­a­peu­tics to in­clude GMP man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The GMP fa­cil­i­ty, which is ex­pect­ed to be­come ful­ly op­er­a­tional in 2019, is be­ing es­tab­lished through a re­cent­ly signed, three-year part­ner­ship with Hos­pi­tal Saint-Louis, Lari­boisière, Fer­nand Vi­dal to de­vel­op and pro­duce gene and cell ther­a­py drugs.

John Hood [file photo]

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