Millennium Post

Swiss Roche to acquire US gene therapy group Spark Therapeutics for $4.3 billion

Swiss Roche to acquire US gene therapy group Spark Therapeutics for $4.3 billion

Zurich: Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche said Monday it reached a deal worth $4.3 billion (3.7 billion euros) to buy US group Spark Therapeutics, which specialises in the development of gene therapy drugs.

Roche said the deal was approved by the boards of both companies, offering $114.50 a share, a premium to 122 per cent to Spark's closing price on Friday.

Founded in 2013, Spark Therapeutics specialises in gene therapies, a new and growing segment of medicine, for genetic diseases such as blindness, haemophilia, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Luxturna, its treatment for a hereditary retinal disorder that can cause blindness, was the first gene therapy to be approved by the US health authorities in 2017, Roche said. The treatment was also approved last year by the European Union. "As the only biotechnology company that has successfully commercialised a gene therapy for a genetic disease in the US, we have built unmatched competencies in the discovery, development and delivery of genetic medicines," Spark Therapeutics CEO Jeffrey D. Marrazzo was quoted as saying in the Roche statement. "But the needs of patients and families living with genetic diseases are immediate and their needs vast.

"With its worldwide reach and extensive resources, Roche will help us accelerate the development of more gene therapies for more patients for more diseases and further expedite our vision of a world where no life is limited by genetic disease," added Marrazzo. Roche's Spark deal, seen closing in the second quarter, follows Novartis's $8.7 billion purchase of US-based Avexis last year, also to gain a platform of gene therapies for disorders including spinal muscular atrophy.

Novartis has made gene therapy one of its focus areas, giving it a head start on Roche. U.S. approval of Novartis's SMA medicine is slated for coming months.

Among Spark's top drug hopefuls is SPK-8011, for haemophilia A, expected to start Phase 3 trials in 2019. It is also working on treatments for Pompe disease, blindness-causing choroideremia and Huntington's disease. Roche already sells Hemlibra against haemophilia A that helps stop bleeding in patients with the genetic disorder that prevents their blood from clotting. Hemlibra, approved in 2017, had 224 million Swiss francs ($224.18 million) in sales last year.



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