Mega $3 Billion+ Deal Shapes Up for Roche to Target AD and Parkinson's

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Swiss pharma giant Roche has been cautious about its Phase III Alzheimer’s drug gantenerumab, particularly in light of the controversial approval of Biogen's Aduhelm. But, that caution doesn’t mean the company is wary about continued research into the devastating impact of that disease, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

This morning, the company announced a partnership with Seattle-based Shape Therapeutics valued at more than $3 billion that will attempt to harness that company’s RNA editing platform to take on these diseases, as well as others. Roche will apply RNAfix and Shape’s AAVid technology platform to develop next-generation tissue-specific adeno-associated viruses for new gene therapies aimed at these indications. 

Shape Therapeutics will be tasked with conducting preclinical research that will identify and deliver potential candidates for development through its RNAfix and AAVid platforms. Once identified, Roche will then undertake responsibility for clinical development and commercialization of any product developed through this partnership. 

James Sabry, the head of Roche Pharma Partnering, said Shape Therapeutics RNA-editing technology has a disruptive potential to develop therapies for these hard-to-treat diseases. He said the collaboration aligns with Roche’s attempts to “unlock the full potential” of gene therapy. 

Over the past few years, Roche has heavily invested in gene therapy efforts to address multiple diseases. In 2019, Roche acquired Philadelphia-based Spark Therapeutics to gain its gene therapy Luxturna for a rare form of blindness, as well as its hemophilia gene therapy pipeline, which is expected to complement Hemlibra. 

Last year, Roche partnered with Dyno Therapeutics to develop next-generation AAV vectors for gene therapies used as a therapy for central nervous system (CNS) diseases. The company also partnered with Germany’s CEVEC Pharma for that company’s ELEVECTA(R) Technology that is designed to bolster manufacturing of AAV vectors. 

“We look forward to working with Shape Therapeutics to create novel treatment options for neuroscience and rare disease indications,” Sabry said. 

Francois Vigneault, co-founder and chief executive officer of Shape Therapeutics, stated that his the relationship with Roche centered on a common desire to take on some of the most challenging diseases with breakthrough technologies such as gene therapy. 

Under terms of the partnership, Shape will receive an upfront payment, as well as development, regulatory, and sales milestone payments valued at more than $3 billion. Should the companies develop a gene therapy that hits the market, Shape will be eligible for tiered royalties on the sales. 

For Shape, the partnership with Roche follows a $112 million Series B financing round in July. 

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