July 16, 2024

Vagmare.com

The Intersection of Information and Insight

J&J bets bigger on MeiraGTx’s eye gene therapy

2 min read

Dive Brief:

  • Gene therapy developer MeiraGTx is selling its remaining financial interest in an eye-disease treatment partnered with Johnson & Johnson, announcing Thursday it is receiving $65 million up front and potentially another $65 million next year in exchange for foregoing future sales royalties.
  • Per deal terms, MeiraGTx could receive up to $285 million more upon J&J’s first commercial sales in the U.S. and Europe, as well as for transferring its manufacturing capabilities over to the big drugmaker. Those payments would only materialize, though, if the gene therapy succeeds in late-stage testing for a rare form of vision loss.
  • For MeiraGTx, the deal, along with a recent $30 million investment from Sanofi, will help fund the company through the middle of 2026 and develop its other programs. Shares in MeiraGTx rose about 22% in Thursday morning trading.

Dive Insight:

J&J and MeiraGTx have been working together since 2019, when they teamed up to develop a range of eye-related gene therapies. The collaboration has resulted in three projects in clinical development, the most of advanced of which, known as “bota-vec,” is now in late-stage testing for a rare, inherited condition called X-linked retinitis pigmentosa.

For J&J, the deal is emblematic of its focus on gene therapies for genetic eye diseases, an area that’s already yielded an approved product in the form of Roche’s Luxturna. J&J has also partnered with privately-held Hemera Biosciences in a deal that’s led to an experimental treatment for geographic atrophy, a form of age-related vision lost.

It’s not alone in its interest. Several drugmakers, among them Novartis, Roche and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, have invested in gene therapies for other ocular disorders, as the eye is easier to reach with a genetic medicine than some other areas of the body.

Yet despite some early validation, eye gene therapy research has faced some notable setbacks. Biogen, for example, has shifted its gene therapy strategy after suffering clinical setbacks in the wake of its acquisition of Nightstar Therapeutics. Applied Genetic Technologies Corp. was taken private after years of struggles. And earlier this year, a privately held startup called Vedere Bio II shut down after disappointing early results.

Results from the bota-vec study could come next year, according to a federal database.

The funding for MeiraGTx, meanwhile, comes at a critical time. Biotech companies have struggled to raise cash during the sector’s pullback, leading many to cut costs, lay off staff or shut down. MeiraGTs had only $63 million in cash as of Sept. 30, and had spent $105 million through the first nine months of 2023.

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