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Bayer pays an initial $2bn for gene therapy firm AskBio

Acquisition will expand Bayers’s pipeline with preclinical/clinical candidates

Bayer has announced its acquisition of Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio) to bolster its presence in cell and gene therapy, paying up to $4bn for the deal.

Germany-based Bayer will pay $2bn initially to gain full rights to AskBio’s gene therapy platform, which includes an intellectual property portfolio and an established contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO).

On top of the upfront payment, Bayer will also pay up to an additional $2bn dependent on success milestones. In a statement released today, Bayer said that 75% of the potential success-based milestone payments are expected to be due over the course of the next five years, with the remaining amount due soon after that.

AskBio’s adeno-associated gene therapy platform has shown promise in a number of disease, with the company’s lead research programmes focused on Pompe disease, Parkinson’s disease and congestive heart failure.

The company’s co-founder Jude Samulski is a gene therapy pioneer, whose early work included demonstrating that AAV could be cloned for therapeutic purposes.

Samulski also created two AskBio subsidiaries, Bamboo Therapeutics and Chatham Therapeutics, which focused on Duchenne muscular dystrophy and haemophilia respectively.

In 2016, Pfizer acquired Bamboo, providing it with a leading gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In addition, some of the research undertaken at AskBio was used to in the development of Novartis’ spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) gene therapy Zolgensma.

Since AskBio launched in 2001, the company has generated hundreds of proprietary third generation AAV capsids and promoters. These could potentially offer improved efficacy, immune response and tissues and organ specificity.

Bayer said that the AskBio acquisition complements its previous buy-out deal for cell therapy company BlueRock Therapeutics last year.

In August 2019, Bayer bought out its private equity Versant Ventures to gain complete control of BlueRock’s cell therapy pipeline, which is headed by a candidate for Parkinson’s disease.

"With Bayer‘s worldwide reach and translational expertise, especially in pathway diseases, our combined cultures of scientific advancement and commitment to patients, along with the retention of AskBio’s independent structure, Bayer and AskBio are positioned to provide accelerated development of gene therapies to treat more patients who can benefit from them,” said Sheila Mikhail, chief executive officer and co-founder of AskBio.

Following its acquisition by Bayer, AskBio will continue to operate as an independent company on an ‘arm’s-length’ basis.

Bayer expects the deal to close during the fourth quarter of 2020, although this is contingent on customary closing conditions and the required regulatory approvals.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

26th October 2020

From: Sales

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