Spark Therapeutics Inc,. has reported that a definitive merger agreement with Roche to acquire Spark at a price of $114.50 per share in an all-cash transaction. As a result, Spark will have the value of approximately $4.8 billion on a fully diluted basis, inclusive of ~$500 million of projected net cash. The per share price represents a premium of 122 percent to Spark’s closing price on Feb. 22, 2019 and the merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of both Spark and Roche. After a press statement Jeffrey D. Marrazzo, chief executive officer of Spark Therapeutics said that, “As the only biotechnology company that has successfully commercialized a gene therapy for a genetic disease in the U.S., we have built unmatched competencies in the discovery, development and delivery of genetic medicines. But the needs of patients and families living with genetic diseases are immediate and vast. With its worldwide reach and extensive resources, Roche will help us accelerate the development of more gene therapies for more patients for more diseases and further expedite our vision of a world where no life is limited by genetic disease.”
Spark Therapeutics was originally spun out of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) with the establishment of two gene therapy programmes following a $50M capital commitment from the hospital. The company includes gene therapy pioneers Jean Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., J. Fraser Wright, Ph.D. and Katherine A. High, M.D., among its founders. The company focused on the treatments of inherited blindness and haemophilia B. The new company use extensive expertise and assets developed by CHOP’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics (CCMT), built up over a decade of frontline research & development in translational and manufacturing activities focused on human gene therapy. The company made an impressive IPO debut on the NASDAQ, January 30th, gaining a substantial 117% jump in price, from an original offer of $23 per share to close out their first day of trading at $50.65. As such, the value of the company has grown from approximately of $1bn (market capitalisation) in early 2015 to ~$4.8bn value in February 2019.
One of the key products built by the company is Luxturna, previously known as “SPK-RPE65”. It was secured on the company’s Phase III clinical trial data, which included data from an intent-to-treat population randomized over a 12-month time period. At the time, the clinical trial results of the work showed “a statistically significant and clinically meaningful difference between intervention (n=21) and control participants (n=10) at one year, per the clinical trial’s primary endpoint, mean bilateral multi-luminance mobility testing (MLMT) score change (difference of 1.6; 95% CI, 0.72, 2.41; p =0.001).” The company additionally announced that treated patients had a “marked difference compared to control participants across the first two secondary endpoints: full-field light sensitivity threshold (FST) testing averaged over both eyes (p =0.001) and the mobility test score change for the first injected eye (p =0.001).” Since then following marketing authorization, the company has put a suggested price of $425,000 per eye.