Sanofi hands back gene therapies to Oxford Biomedica

Oxford Biomedica’s long-running alliance with Sanofi over a pair of gene therapies for ophthalmic diseases has come to an end, after an internal review by the French drugmaker.

The two programmes – SAR422459 and SAR421869 – had advanced into early-stage clinical testing since Sanofi first licensed them to the UK biotech in 2009.

Sanofi had already said in February 2019 that it had decided not to press ahead with developing the two therapies in-house, and was looking for a development partner. Now, it has decided to abandon that search and return the rights entirely.

The biotech said it will start an internal review of the two gene therapies after rights are returned to see if they warrant further development, which would likely involve finding a new partner for the programmes.

SAR422459 has been tested in a phase 1/2 trial for rare eye inherited disorder Stargardt disease, which causes progressive damage of the macula of the eye, leading to loss of central vision. The trial was terminated earlier this month, according to a clinicaltrials.gov update.

SAR421869 also started a clinical trial in Usher’s syndrome type 1b, a genetic disease that causes hearing loss and loss of vision due to retinitis pigmentosa, in 2012 but was suspended a few years later.

A $100 million partnership between Oxford Biomedica and Sanofi’s Bioverativ subsidiary, which focuses on haemophilia, is still in place.

Coronavirus alliance

There was better news for Oxford Biomedica released on the same day, however, as it forged a five-year deal with the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) – a non-profit organisation whose establishment as the UK’s response to emerging infectious diseases has been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis.

As part of the alliance VMIC and Oxford Biomedica will work together on the scale up and manufacture Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine AZD1222 (formerly ChAdOx1 nCoV-19).

AZD1222, which is in phase 2/3 testing, is one of the front runners among vaccines against COVID-19 and last month AZ signed a one-year clinical and commercial supply agreement with Oxford Biomedica for multiple batches due for delivery this year.

The collaboration will see VMIC provide manufacturing equipment for Oxford Biomedica to equip two manufacturing suites within OxBox, the biotech’s 84,000 sq. ft. bioprocessing facility.

Oxford Biomedia will also provide expertise and technical assistance to the VMIC as it gears up to open its manufacturing in mid-2021, a year ahead of the original schedule.

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