On January 2, Voyager Therapeutics announced a significant licensing deal with Swiss-based drugmaker Novartis, wherein Novartis would make an upfront payment of $100 million. This partnership aims to develop gene therapy candidates specifically targeting genetic disorders. Following this agreement, Voyager’s shares surged by more than 30% in premarket trading, indicating a positive market response to the collaboration.
As part of the deal, Voyager will potentially receive up to $1.2 billion based on the achievement of certain milestones in the development of gene therapy candidates. The key technology involved in this collaboration is Voyager’s RNA-based screening platform, known for its capability to facilitate the rapid discovery of experimental gene therapies. In addition to the upfront payment, Voyager stands to gain tiered royalties on global sales of products developed using this innovative platform.
The primary focus of this joint effort will be the development of a pre-clinical gene therapy candidate targeting Huntington’s disease (HD). HD is an inherited genetic disorder characterized by the gradual breakdown and death of nerve cells in specific areas of the brain. Voyager will lead the pre-clinical development phase, while Novartis will take charge of all clinical studies and commercialization activities for the HD candidate.
Furthermore, the collaboration extends to include Novartis gaining access to Voyager’s platform for the discovery and development of potential gene therapies addressing spinal muscular atrophy, a group of rare genetic disorders that impact nerve cells, leading to muscle wasting and weakness.
This collaboration marks a continuation of the relationship between the two companies, as Novartis had previously exercised an option to license novel capsids or gene therapy delivery vehicles generated from Voyager’s drug discovery platform. These novel capsids are being explored as potential treatments for two undisclosed neurological conditions.
Separately, Voyager Therapeutics is actively engaged in the development of an investigational gene therapy for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurological disease. Additionally, the company is working on an antibody designed to address Alzheimer’s disease. The strategic alliance with Novartis further underscores the growing interest and investment in the field of gene therapy for various genetic disorders and neurological conditions.