The University of Philadelphia and Biogen Inc. (NASDAQ: BIIB) have announced a collaboration on the development of gene therapies for eye disease, skeletal muscle disorders and CNS conditions. Under the terms of the transaction the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) may receive as much as $2 billion in research funding, options and milestone payments. The university receives an initial upfront payment of $20 million with a further $62.5 million in R&D funding over a 3 to 5 year period. The funding will be used to develop seven distinct preclinical research and development programs. Additional income for the university may accrue through milestone and royalty payments on a per product basis. In addition, Biogen is scheduled to receive an option to license next generation AAV vectors for application to opportunities outside of the UPenn collaboration.
The investment by Biogen is aimed at establishing a significant gene transfer and gene editing platform for the future treatment of inherited or acquired diseases. The research work will engage James Wilson, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, and Director of Penn’s Gene Therapy Program, and Jean Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Ophthalmology and Cell and Developmental Biology and Director of the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics. Both Professors Wilson and Bennett are recognized world leaders in gene therapy at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
Commenting on the initiative Olivier Danos, Ph.D., senior vice president, Cell & Gene Therapy at Biogen stated that, “We are committed to advancing gene therapy, and our collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania has significantly strengthened both our leadership and overall capabilities in the field. Joining forces with gene therapy pioneers, James Wilson and Jean Bennett, further enables Biogen to approach the technology from a powerful perspective. By exploring next-generation delivery in various tissues such as the retina, skeletal muscle and CNS, we will explore the potential for extending gene therapy beyond disorders linked to single gene mutations and into a broader spectrum of complex diseases, including devastating neurological conditions that affect a multitude of patients throughout the world.”