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Axovant attempts to rise from ashes with $842m Parkinson’s therapy deal

Published on 07/06/18 at 12:06pm

Axovant’s spectacular crash to Earth, after a soaring IPO that saw its share price hit the heady heights of $26, is likely to become a biotech cautionary tale into the future but the next twist in the tale was revealed to be it securing a new lead candidate, this time in Parkinson’s disease.

Its previous lead candidate, which made the company’s name and that of its founder, Vivek Ramaswamy, was a drug for Alzheimer’s that the biotech had picked up from GSK’s offcuts.

It failed, spectacularly, and the biotech’s share price tanked to be worth under $2.

It believes its next bet has serious hopes in the Parkinson’s field and, unlike in previous deals, it’s taking the candidate from a company who has been working on the gene therapy as its sole focus rather than it being a discarded drug.

Oxford BioMedica candidate, now known as AXO-Lenti-PD, is a gene therapy that delivers three genes encoding a set of enzymes that are required for dopamine synthesis in the brain.

Axovant has paid $30 million up front to license the drug, while there are milestone payments that could total $812 million, depending on its success.

Pavan Cheruvu, Chief Executive Officer of Axovant, stated: “Axovant remains committed to developing innovative treatments for serious neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and we are excited to partner with Oxford BioMedica, a recognized global leader in cell and gene therapy. We are also pleased to welcome Fraser to our leadership team. He brings over two decades of experience in gene therapy manufacturing, and will be committed to building world-class gene therapy capabilities at Axovant. We will continue to pursue promising new therapeutic approaches based on transformative science, and will further expand our pipeline with high-quality assets like AXO-Lenti-PD. This is part of our long-term goal of building Axovant into a leader in the development and commercialization of innovative new medicines for neurological indications.”

To aid in the development of the gene therapy, Fraser Wright will join Axovant as Chief Technology Officer after having previously worked for Spark Therapeutics – known for bringing through its gene therapy, Luxturna, to patients for inherited retinal disease.

The market reacted well to Axovant’s pivot towards the more traditional route of paying for promising therapies in development and saw its share price rise to $4.55, well up from its previous price of $1.75.

Ben Hargreaves

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