German biotech giant Evotec has moved into gene therapy and partnered with Takeda to develop new therapies in oncology, rare diseases, neuroscience, and gastroenterology.
The two companies did not reveal financial details of the collaboration, but did say that it will be a multi-year alliance that adds to Evotec’s existing deal with the big pharma that stretches back more than 10 years. The four therapy areas they will concentrate on align with Takeda’s core therapeutic focus.
“The alliance with Takeda gives us a head start,” Evotec CEO Werner Lanthaler told me. “Takeda has strong experience in gene therapy and we are proud that they have chosen us as a partner.”
Evotec also announced it will be opening a 20-person R&D site in Austria, in Orth an der Donau, to work on its gene therapies. While this will be run independently from the Takeda deal, according to Lanthaler, he said the discussions around the collaboration happened at the same time as the gene therapy site was being set up.
The site — known as Evotec GT — will be led by Friedrich Scheiflinger, who worked for Takeda before moving to Evotec. According to a statement from Evotec, the team has “worked together for many years” and as well as a focus on gene therapy techniques, has expertise in virology and blood disorders, as well as metabolic and muscle diseases.
Gene therapy has undergone a revolution in recent years and has changed dramatically since the ‘90’s. With approvals of therapies such as the eye gene therapy Luxturna in 2018, many companies are now investing in and working to develop similar therapies.
One reason Evotec cites for moving into this area is the potential for rapid market growth. At present, there are only a few gene therapies on the market, but there are many in development. The value of the market is expected to reach €4.6B by 2025, a dramatic increase from €459M in 2018.
Evotec is also working on various other advanced therapies, including cell therapy with its EVOcells platform. The company announced last week that it made a licensing and investment agreement with Canadian biotech panCELLa, a company modifying cell therapies to evade the immune system and prevent rejection. Evotec additionally has a ‘PanOmics’ platform that combines transcriptomics and proteomics data to find new drug targets.
“After expanding our biologics capabilities through the acquisition of Just – Evotec Biologics in 2019, Evotec GT is yet another important piece to complete the multimodality puzzle,” explained Lathaler.
“The timing was ideal, as Evotec GT brings our existing expertise in the gene therapy field to a new level. It also has close technological ties especially to our induced pluripotent stem cells and PanOmics platforms, so these platforms can grow and gain traction together.”
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