11:06 PM
 | 
Jun 13, 2018
 |  BC Extra  |  Financial News

Syncona backs pair of gene therapy start-ups

Syncona Ltd. (LSE:SYNC) launched SwanBio Therapeutics Ltd. (Boston, Mass.) and Orbit Biomedical Ltd. (Philadelphia, Pa.), a pair of gene therapy newcos for CNS and retinal disorders, respectively.

The U.K. investment firm provided $23 million of SwanBio's $25 million series A round for a 72% stake. Partners Innovation Fund provided the balance (see BioCentury, June 13).

Spun out of Massachusetts General Hospital, SwanBio will seek to develop a gene therapy for a recessive monogenic CNS disorder that affects thousands of patients, according to Syncona Chief Investment Officer and Managing Partner Chris Hollowood. He declined to name a specific indication.

Syncona was the lone investor in Orbit's $12 million series A round and has an 80% stake. Orbit is developing a sub-retinal surgical gene therapy delivery platform it acquired from the Janssen Biotech Inc. unit of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) for an undisclosed amount. Rather than developing gene therapies in-house, Orbit intends to make the surgical platform available for licensing to outside partners.

Syncona has also invested in three other gene therapy plays: inherited retinal disorders company Nightstar Therapeutics plc (NASDAQ:NITE), hemophilia B therapy developer Freeline Therapeutics (London, U.K.) and retinal inflammation company Gyroscope Therapeutics Ltd. (Stevenage, U.K.).

On Thursday, Nightstar added $1.98 (14%) to $15.98 after its NSR-REP1 received Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) designation to treat choroideremia. The gene therapy comprises an adeno-associated viral (AAV) serotype 2 vector carrying the Rab escort protein 1 (CHM; REP1) gene. FDA made certain gene therapies eligible for the designation last year (see BioCentury, Sept. 14, 2017).

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