2022-03-09| Licensing

Novartis Bets $1.5 Billion on Voyager’s AAVs

by Joy Lin
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Novartis has announced that it is licensing Voyager Therapeutics’ adeno-associated virus (AAV) technology to deliver gene therapies for neurological diseases.

Under the deal, Novartis will initially license Voyager’s AAV capsids for three undisclosed targets in the CNS, and could opt to license two more. 

Novartis will pay Voyager $54 million upfront and up to $37.5 million in licensing fees for the first three targets. If Novartis chooses to add the other two targets, it will have to pay Voyager $18 million per target selected, and a $12.5 million exercise fee to match a capsid to the selected target. Voyager could also earn up to $1.5 billion in development and commercial milestones, as well as single-digit royalties for product sales. 

Related Article: Sio Gene Therapies Touts Positive Safety and Biomarker Data for GM1 Gangliosidosis Candidate


Voyager’s Capsid Discovery Platform


Voyager claims that its RNA-driven capsid discovery platform  could create AAVs capable of penetrating the blood-brain barrier with greater efficacy. Studies on non-human primates also suggested the capsids would also improve gene uptake by cells in the brain and spinal cord, and could also be directed to cardiac muscle. 

Voyager is screening for more AAV9 and AAV5 capsid variants that can better target specific populations of cells such as glial cells. 

Related Article: Voyager Therapeutics’ Novel AAV Capsid Tech for Gene Therapy Attracts Pfizer’s Investment


Interests and Exits  


Many companies have shown interest in Voyager’s viral shells. Pfizer announced last October that it will license Voyager’s capsids for use with one neurologic and one cardiovascular target. The deal was estimated to be worth $630 million. 

However, other deals have not gone as smoothly. In 2019, Neurocrine Biosciences partnered with Voyager in a $1.865 billion deal for four neuroscience targets including Parkinson’s disease and Friedreich’s ataxia. By August 2021, Neurocrine had pulled out of the Parkinson’s portion of the agreement, after safety issues from that program led to an FDA hold. 

Even earlier, Sanofi’s Genzyme bet $100 million to license Voyager’s programs which covered Parkinson’s, Friedreich’s ataxia and Hungtington’s disease, but had dropped the three programs by 2019. In 2020, Voyager lost another partner in Abbvie after the latter decided to drop partnerships over Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. 

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