Biogen Loses Gene Therapy Pioneer to REGENXBIO

Biogen Loses Gene Therapy Pioneer to REGENXBIO March 28, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Rockville, Mary.-based REGENXBIO announced today that Olivier Danos was joining the company as chief scientific officer, a newly created position.

Prior to joining REGENXBIO, Danos was senior vice president, Cell and Gene Therapy at Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen . At Biogen, he was focused on gene transfer and genome engineering.

“Biogen was for me a very good environment,” Danos told Endpoints NewsJohn Carroll. He indicated that overall, he enjoyed the translational science and innovation conducted at Biogen. “At the same time, I realized that the focus of a smaller structure entirely dedicated to gene therapy is in a way a more efficient way to go.”

Danos added that Biogen was more focused recently on gene therapy for its clinical program, moving away from research programs Danos thought were important.

In addition to his time at Biogen, Danos co-founded and remains an executive member of Lysogene’s board of directors. Lysogene is a NAV technology licensee. Its focus is on developing gene therapy products to treat Mucopolysaccharidosis Type IIIA.

“The NAV Technology Platform,” Danos said in a statement, “has the potential to significantly alter the course of disease and deliver enhanced health outcomes to patients in need. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead scientific research at REGENXBIO as we continue to advance this groundbreaking technology in a broad range of diseases that are not effectively addressed by existing drug classes.”

Before working at Biogen, Danos was senior vice president, Molecular Medicine, Synthetic Biology and Gene Regulation at Kadmon Pharmaceuticals. He also was director of the Gene Therapy Consortium of the University College of London, scientific director at Genethon and senior director of Research at Somatix Therapy.

Carroll writes, “Danos has spent decades in the field, starting out working with [James] Wilson in Richard Mulligan’s Harvard lab back in the ‘80s. And while he’s left Biogen, he’ll be working more closely than ever with Wilson, the scientific founder of REGENXBIO and another high profile groundbreaker in the field who helped create the gene therapy vectors that REGENXBIO has been licensing out to a new wave of players in gene therapy.”

Initially, REGENXBIO began as a central warehouse for its vector technology intellectual property, assisting new companies get launched in the direction of clinical trials. But eventually it began to develop its own pipeline and had an initial public offering (IPO) when investors jumped on the gene therapy bandwagon.

Gene therapy is turning out to be a tough nut to crack. Spark Therapeutics is probably leading the way, but they’re still struggling with immune responses. Spark and Pfizer (PFE) announced on March 1 that SPK-9001 for Hemophilia B had been given support through the European Medicines Agency (EMA) PRIority Medicines (PRIME) program, which is designed to support new treatments “that may offer a major therapeutic advantage over existing treatments, or benefit patients without treatment options.” SPK-9001 had also received orphan product designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2015, and in July 2016, received breakthrough therapy designation.

Danos told Carroll, “The name of the game has always been about delivery. We are going to keep working on delivery.”

“Olivier brings established industry leadership and scientific expertise in the development of gene therapies and the field of genome engineering to REGENXBIO,” said James Wilson, REGENXBIO’s scientific founder and director of the University of Pennsylvania Gene Therapy Program, in a statement. “My relationship with Olivier can be traced back to the early stages of our careers, when he and I shared a bench at the Whitehead laboratories. He is an innovative scientist who has been at the forefront of the industry, and I look forward to collaborating with him on the advancement of scientific research at REGENXBIO.

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