Pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has this month acquired a 19.9% stake in UK-based gene therapy developer Orchard Therapeutics as part of an agreemment to license a portfolio of gene therapies to the company.
Spun out from University College London (UCL) in 2016, Orchard Therapeutic is developing gene therapies to treat rare immune deficiencies and metabolic disorders.
The company targets conditions such as adenosine deaminase deficiency (Ada-Scid), which damages the immune system and leaves patients with virtually no protection against infections caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi.
The GSK-licensed portfolio features both approved and investigational therapies for rare diseases. It includes a licence for Strimvelis, a treatment for Ada-Scid that was approved by European Union regulator the European Medical Agency in 2016.
Orchard will take over responsibilities for the therapies through a collaboration deal between GSK and Italy-based San Raffaele Hospital and charity Telethon Foundation, and an agreement with cancer-focused biotech developer MolMed.
GSK will be entitled to royalty and commercial milestone payments and will exchange manufacturing, technical and commercial insights with Orchard. The corporate will continue to lead certain activities through 2018 to ensure a smooth transition.
Orchard closed a $110m series B round in December 2017 that included UCL Technology Fund, an investment vehicle established by UCL to back its spinouts, and Singapore state-owned investment firm Temasek.
Baillie Gifford and Ori Capital co-led the round, which included F-Prime Capital, an investment unit of financial services conglomerate Fidelity International, as well as Cowen Healthcare Investments, Juda Capital, Pavilion Capital, RTW Investments, Agent Capital and 4Bio Capital.
F-Prime had already led a $30m series A round for Orchard in 2016 with commitments from UCL Business, the university’s tech transfer office, as well as UCL Technology Fund and the EU-owned European Investment Fund.
John Lepore, senior vice-president for GSK’s R&D pipeline, said: “GSK is proud of the advances we have achieved in collaboration with the cell and gene therapy pioneers at Ospedale San Raffaele, Fondazione Telethon and MolMed in Milan.
“Since we announced our intent to review these medicines, our goal has been to identify the right owner who can build on what we have already achieved, and can advance these important medicines for patients, allowing GSK to focus on building its broader cell and gene therapy platform capabilities.
“Orchard are committed to patient access, and we are confident that this agreement combined with the ongoing relationship between the two companies will support the progression of these valuable programmes to enable them to benefit patients.”