Pfizer Enters the Gene Therapy Ring with Spark Therapeutics Tie-in

In Partnering & Investment by Cameron

Pfizer has entered the gene therapy ring with the hiring of Professor Michael Linden, University College London, and deal with Spark Therapeutics

Pfizer has announced two strategic decisions to increase their investment in rare disease research and development. To get the ball rolling, Pfizer have established an agreement with Spark therapeutics incorporating Spark’s own gene therapy platform. The second announcement sees Pfizer committing to the creation of a gene therapy research unit within their existing rare disease unit.

The agreement with Spark Therapeutics will grant Pfizer access to Spark’s SPK-FIX platform, an adeno-associated virus vector, currently in development as part of a hemophilia B treatment. With a 1/2 trial expected to begin in the first half of 2015, Spark Therapeutics have already earnt $83 million in financing since their creation. This agreement gives Pfizer responsibility for pivotal studies and regulatory submissions further along the line, whilst Spark will receive $20 million upfrontwith $260 million available in milestone payments.

The second strand of Pfizer’s announcement concerns the hiring of Professor Michael Linden from University College London to set up a gene therapy R&D team within Pfizer’s current rare disease unit. As well as creating a dedicated team, professor Linden will be tasked with getting Pfizer researchers up to speed so that the company can develop their own gene therapy platform from which they can build a pipeline of products.

“The establishment of a gene therapy group under the leadership of Professor Linden will help Pfizer explore the potential of this important technology that could possibly benefit patients living with serious diseases… Professor Linden brings to Pfizer his extensive expertise in AAV technology obtained from over 20 years working in the field.”Kevin Lee, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief scientific officer of Pfizer’s Rare Disease Research Unit

The gene therapy market looks to be hotting up and Pfizer is just the latest addition to a growing line of collaborations to have taken place, and add Pfizer to the growing number of Pharma giants entering the market: Bayer-Dimension Therapeutics, Celgene-BlueBird Bio, along with GSK’s and Baxter’s internal units. And with UniQure finally applying for approval for their lipoprotein lipase deficiency therapy, and gene therapy start-up Audentes securing $42.5m financing, the gene therapy market may well be about to make a comeback after early optimism was broken by disappointing R&D efforts.

Find the press release here.