- As part of a $3 billion deal brokered with Roivant Sciences, Japanese drugmaker Sumitomo Dainippon will gain ownership of a newly unveiled biotech focused on developing gene therapies for cystic fibrosis.
- The sweeping arrangement between Roivant and Sumitomo, announced last month and signed Thursday, transferred ownership of five Roivant subsidiaries to Sumitomo, which will house the group of biotechs in a new company to be led by former Genentech executive Myrtle Potter.
- In addition to the money paid for stakes in Roivant and the five companies, Sumitomo will also back one of the five, Myovant Sciences, with a $350 million loan to help launch the experimental uterine fibroids drug relugolix, if approved.
Gene therapy is the next frontier for cystic fibrosis treatment, after Vertex secured approval this month for a triplet drug combination that can treat an estimated 90% of people with the genetic disease.
Vertex, as well as its longtime research partner the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, are now setting their sights on developing a gene therapy for the remaining 10% who are unable to take current treatments. Just this week, the foundation announced plans to commit $500 million to fund cystic fibrosis drug development through 2025.
So Roivant and Sumitomo's unveiling of Spirovant is timely, even if the small biotech will be starting well behind Vertex.
Headed by Joan Lau, Spirovant has disclosed three preclinical gene therapy programs, two of which rely on adeno-associated viral vectors and the third on lentiviral vectors. The idea behind cystic fibrosis gene therapy is to introduce a functional copy of the gene that's mutated in the disease into cells that line the airways.
Technology behind Spirovant's first two candidates comes from the University of Iowa Center for Gene Therapy. Spirovant, headquartered in Philadelphia, is working with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to secure supply of the viral vectors it will use to deliver its therapies.
With eight employees on its payroll, the biotech is the smallest of the five companies now owned by Sumitomo through its deal with Roivant.
Roivant subsidiaries now owned by Sumitomo
|Sumitomo ownership stake
|46%, publicly traded
|75%, publicly traded
All five will operate under an as yet unnamed company owned directly by Sumitomo, which will partner with Roivant in a broader alliance as well.
Myrtle Potter, a former chief operating officer at Genentech, will be CEO of the new company. She was appointed an operating chair at Roivant in July 2018.
Sumitomo, which last month paid Roivant a hefty $3 billion in the initial deal, also appears willing to put up more cash to support its newly acquired companies.
The Japanese drugmaker will extend Myovant a five-year loan of $350 million, with no repayments due until the end of the term.
Myovant is developing relugolix as a treatment for women with uterine fibroids, and expects to file for U.S. approval by the end of the year. If cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, the drug would challenge AbbVie's Orilissa (elagolix).