Axovant Pivoting Towards Gene Therapies
Biotech Axovant has licensed Oxford Biomedica’s gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease, OXB-102 (now known as AXO-Lenti-PD), as part of a company shake up in the wake of significant underperformance last year. The company has also scooped up Spark Therapeutic’s Co-Founder and former CTO, Dr Fraser Wright, to act as their new Chief Technology Officer.
This news comes after the biotech suffered a disastrous year, with their potential Alzheimer’s therapy failing in two high profile clinical trials, Dr David Hung resigning as the company’s CEO, and shares dropping dramatically. Now, Axovant appears to be putting themselves behind gene therapies in an attempt to recover.
Under the deal with Oxford BioMedica, Axovant will gain $25M in share buys from its parent company to enable them to develop the treatment. With the funding, the company hopes to launch a Phase 1/2 study in patients with an advanced form of Parkinson’s by the end of this year. Alongside AXO-Lenti-PD, Axovant is also gaining access to ProSavin, a lentiviral vector-based gene therapy for Parkinson’s that proceeded OXB-102, for the price of $30M. In total, Oxford BioMedica is believed to be making $812M in the deal, as well as their share of royalties should AXO-Lenti-PD be approved for sale.
To maximise the promise of this deal, Axovant are also brining in Dr Fraser Wright to act as their new CTO. Dr Wright previously served as Co-Founder and CTO at Spark Therapeutics, and helped to oversee FDA approval of Spark’s gene therapy Luxturna, experience that will surely help him in his new role.
The response to this news has been hesitant. While a reformation may be the best approach for Axovant to take, gene therapy has proven to be notoriously difficult to perfect and there is a risk that AXO-Lenti-PD will not perform at the level they are hoping. Nonetheless, this change has the potential to turn Axovant’s position around at long last – we’ll be watching with fingers crossed.