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Sanofi exiting Voyager gene therapy pact is ‘surprising’, says analyst

Move cuts pipeline depth, says GlobalData

Sanofi

Sanofi has scaled back its four-year-old gene therapy alliance with Voyager Therapeutics for the second time, retaining a minor stake in the biotech’s technology platform.

The $845m deal focused mainly on central nervous system diseases, and was formed in 2015 with a Parkinson’s disease candidate the lead project. Sanofi handed back rights to that two years ago, and has now done the same with gene therapies for Huntington’s disease, Friedreich’s ataxia and spinal muscular atrophy.

It is a “surprising step back” for the big pharma company, says GlobalData analyst Vinie Varkey, and “certainly reduces the pipeline depth required of a company to bolster its chance of reaping the benefits of transformative therapies in multiple indications.”

GlobalData says that apart from Novartis’ recently FDA-approved SMA gene therapy Zolgensma, which is expected to get a green light in Europe and Japan, no other gene therapy pipeline products for CNS indications are in phase 3 trials in the eight major pharma markets (the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Japan and China).

The second revision to the deal now means that Sanofi’s partnership with Voyager is reduced to using viral its adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsid vector platform in up to two non-CNS indications.

Sanofi is handing back its rights to Huntington’s candidate VY-HTT01, still in preclinical development, as well as the rights to Friedreich’s ataxia therapy VYFXN01 which will now be transferred to a partnership with Neurocrine Biosciences agreed earlier this year.

Voyager has agreed to pay $10m to regain rights to the programmes, which will be partially offset by a $5m licence fee from Neurocrine, and will pay another $10m to Sanofi on the filing of application to start clinical trials of VY-HTT01, expected later this year.

The US biotech says it will press pause on a gene therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as a result of the pipeline shake-up and will look for a partner, and focus its internal R&D efforts on the Huntington’s programme.

Varkey said that Sanofi’s exit could lead to additional licensing deals for the returned platforms, and also suggested that Voyager could become a takeover candidate.

“Companies with proprietary gene therapy platforms are fast becoming an attractive partner for collaborations with bigger companies or possible buy-outs,2 he said.

“It will not be a surprise if Voyageur Therapeutics is in the limelight for similar reasons.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

20th June 2019

From: Marketing

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