Spark Therapeutics acquires Genable Technologies

Spark adds new program for leading cause of inherited retinal disease

Lloyd Dunlap
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PHILADELPHIA—Spark Therapeutics recently announced that it had acquired Dublin, Ireland-based Genable Technologies, a private gene therapy innovator with which Spark has collaborated since 2014 in the development of Genable’s therapeutic program targeting one of the most prevalent forms of inherited retinal disease (IRD).
With the acquisition, Spark lands RhoNova, a potential treatment targeting rhodopsin-linked autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (RHO-adRP), an IRD that routinely leads to visual impairment and in the most severe cases to blindness. Using an adeno-associated virus vector developed and manufactured at Spark, RhoNova is designed to both suppress the expression of a faulty gene and deliver normal copies of the RHO gene to restore normal expression. RhoNova has been granted Orphan Drug Designation in both the United States and Europe in addition to the Advanced Therapy Medicinal Product designation from the European Medicines Agency. There is currently no approved pharmacologic treatment for RHO-adRP, which affects an estimated 12,000 patients in the United States and the five major European markets.
“This transaction advances our strategy of leveraging Spark’s best-in-class gene therapy platform through a combination of internal innovation, acquisition and collaboration,” said Jeffrey D. Marrazzo, Spark’s co-founder and CEO. “Genable’s technology and promising RhoNova development program further strengthens our portfolio of treatments for IRDs, which is led by our Phase 3 program for RPE65-mediated blindness which recently reported overwhelmingly positive pivotal stage data.”
“Genable has provided convincing data in animals to support their innovative scientific approach for the treatment of autosomal dominant diseases, where it is critical to both suppress faulty genes and replace them with a functional copy in order to have a meaningful therapeutic effect,” said Dr. Katherine A. High, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of Spark. “We look forward to using our validated gene therapy development platform and expertise to accelerate the clinical development of RHoNova, while examining other potential applications for the Genable suppression/augmentation approach outside of this initial indication.”
The consideration paid to Genable shareholders consisted of $6 million in cash and 265,000 shares of Spark common stock. Additional financial terms were not disclosed.
Spark is a gene therapy company “seeking to transform the lives of patients with debilitating genetic diseases by developing one-time, life-altering treatments.” Spark’s initial focus is on treating rare diseases where no, or only palliative, therapies exist. Spark’s most advanced product candidate, SPK-RPE65 (voretigene neparvovec), which has received both Breakthrough Therapy and Orphan Drug product designations, recently reported positive top-line results from a pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial for the treatment of rare blinding conditions. Spark’s validated gene therapy platform is being applied to a range of clinical and preclinical programs addressing serious genetic diseases, including inherited retinal dystrophies, hematologic disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Spark builds on two decades of research, development and manufacturing at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, including human trials conducted across diverse therapeutic areas and routes of administration.
Genable Technologies Ltd. is a privately held, venture-capital-backed gene therapy company. Genable is developing new gene therapies to treat “dominant” genetic diseases. The company has received significant support and investment form Fountain Healthcare Partners, Delta Partners, Fighting Blindness Ireland, Foundation Fighting Blindness Clinical Research Institute (U.S.), Trinity College Dublin and Enterprise Ireland.

Lloyd Dunlap

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