Pfizer buys gene therapy firm Bamboo

Pfizer has made a move into gene therapy, buying US biotech Bamboo Therapeutics in a deal worth up to $645 million.

A privately held biotech, based in North Carolina, Bamboo is developing gene therapies aimed at treating rare diseases, related to neuromuscular conditions, and affecting the central nervous system.

Bamboo has pre-clinical treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Friedreich’s Ataxia and Canavan disease, and a phase 1 asset for Giant Axonal Neuropathy.

Unlike Biogen and its investment of $2 billion in the University of Pennsylvania and its CRISPR/cas9 based technology in May, Pfizer has decided to buy a company developing a technology based around advanced recombinant Adeno-Associated Virus (rAAV) vector.

None of these platforms are yet proven as therapies and all have potential drawbacks – in this case the virus is accurate at inserting genetic material in the right place, but can only carry a small amount of DNA.

The issue with CRISPR, is that it edits the DNA of more cells, but is less accurate and can insert the genetic material in the wrong place.

At the moment gene therapy is used to generate cells with characteristics of diseased cells, which can then be used to test drugs.

Indeed Pfizer’s own Xalkori (crizotinib) lung cancer drug was developed using gene editing technology.

Pfizer already acquired around 22% of Bamboo’s equity for around $43 million, and will pay $150 million for the remainder, with potential milestone payments of up to $495 million if the biotech meets development, regulatory and commercial targets.

Following the acquisition, Bamboo is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pfizer.

Gregory LaRosa, chief scientific officer at Pfizer’s rare disease research unit, said: “Bringing together Pfizer and Bamboo colleagues’ deep scientific understanding of both rAAV biology and complex biologic manufacturing will help position us for success in this area.”

Jude Samulski, chief scientific officer and executive chairman of Bamboo, will be joining Pfizer with the rest of his team.

He said: “We are pleased to begin working with Pfizer, as this represents a significant step toward bringing Bamboo’s portfolio into the clinic and ultimately potential new medicines to patients.”


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