- Sarepta Therapeutics has linked up with two smaller biotechs to find new ways of making its gene therapies more effective.
- Deals with Codiak Biosciences, announced Monday, and Selecta Biosciences, announced Friday, have the companies researching workarounds to one of the biggest sticking points for gene therapy developers: immune system reactions. Many developers, including Sarepta, use non-replicating viruses to administer their treatments. But while effective, these therapies may not be able to be given more than once because patients' bodies can create antibodies to the virus.
- Sarepta and Selecta are now looking at whether ImmTOR, the latter's immune tolerance technology, can reduce or prevent neutralizing antibodies from forming. The Codiak deal, meanwhile, is evaluating whether exosomes, a type of cell-derived package, can deliver gene therapy without eliciting an immune response. In both deals, Sarepta has an option to license the biotech's technology to develop and commercialize its therapies.
Known for its muscular dystrophy drugs Exondys 51 and Vydonys 53, Sarepta has quickly become a leader in gene therapy as well.
The last couple of years have seen the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech ink gene therapy manufacturing and development deals, including a partnership with Roche that could be worth more than $3 billion.
Sarepta now has six gene therapies in clinical testing and another half dozen in preclinical stages. Most recently, the company announced positive, albeit early, results from a study of its experimental treatment for limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, a potentially deadly genetic disease.
With gene therapy set to become a cornerstone of its business, Sarepta is trying to avoid some the challenges presented by current technologies.
For example, when the company teamed up with North Carolina-based StrideBio late last year, one of the main goals was to use the partner's technology to "address re-dosing challenges in patients who have received AAV-delivered gene therapy." The deal came just days after a study testing an experimental gene therapy from Solid Biosciences, one of Sarepta's rivals, was paused due to a patient experiencing an immune response and organ complications.
"If successful, the ability to re-dose will be an enormous leap forward in the science of gene therapy and provide invaluable benefits to patients beyond those we anticipate with one-time dosing," said Doug Ingram, Sarepta's CEO, in a June 18 statement announcing the Selecta deal.
Under terms of that deal, Sarepta will pay Selecta an initial, undisclosed amount. Selecta is eligible to receive pre-clinical milestone payments, and could take home additional development, regulatory and commercial milestones should Sarepta exercise its options to enter a licensing agreement.
Specifically, the deal with Selecta centers on gene therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and certain limb-girdle muscular dystrophies.
With Codiac, Sarepta has offered up $72.5 million in upfront and near-term license payments plus research funding. In addition, Codiak is eligible for "significant" milestone payments, according to Sarepta.
The two-year deal gives Sarepta the option to license Codiak's technology for up to five neuromuscular targets. The companies said they will collaborate on the design of exosomes that can deliver and release gene therapy, gene editing or RNA payloads. If Sarepta exercises an option, Codiak will then be in charge of research until right before the candidate goes into in-human testing. Sarepta is responsible for clinical development and commercial activities.