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Pfizer to set up dedicated gene therapy development unit

15 December 2014

By Sean Byrne

Appeared in BioNews 784

Pfizer has entered into a deal with biotech company Spark Therapeutics to conduct research into gene therapy for haemophilia B.

The programme, SPK-FIX, will centre on producing an adeno-associated virus for the treatment of haemophilia B, and Spark expects to enter clinical trials in the first half of 2015.

'We are excited to announce our collaboration with Pfizer, as we believe it marks an important step towards bringing a potentially life-altering therapeutic to patients with haemophilia B,' said Jeffrey Marrazzo, chief executive officer of Spark.

Spark will be responsible for conducting phase I/II trials of the potential treatment. Pfizer will be in charge of pivotal studies, regulatory approvals and potential global commercialisation of the product. Spark will receive US$20 million up front but could be eligible to make $260 million if the therapy is commercialised.

Pfizer has been producing haemophilia treatment Factor IX to patients for over 17 years. In the future, the gene therapy will allow the body to produce its own Factor IX, researchers hope.

Geno Germano, group president of global innovative pharma business at Pfizer, said, 'We believe the SPK-FIX program could add to our existing portfolio of haemophilia products and could pioneer a potential new treatment technology for patients with bleeding disorders.'

The move by Pfizer comes at a time when other major pharmaceutical companies have begun to develop an interest in gene therapy. According to FierceBiotech, Celgene has teamed up with Bluebird Bio on gene therapy for cancer and Bayer has signed a $252 million deal with Dimension Therapeutics to research haemophilia A treatment.

The Pfizer and Spark Therapeutics research group will be led by Michael Linden, a professor from King’s College London and director of the University College London Gene Therapy Consortium.

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