Eli Lilly $880m Prevail buy a ‘good entry point’ into gene therapy

As Eli Lilly agrees to buy Prevail Therapeutics adding a pipeline of neuroscience assets, CEO Dave Ricks hints at further acquisitions in the gene therapy space.

The deal announced yesterday will see Eli Lilly pay approximately $880 million upfront for New York-based Prevail Therapeutics, with a further $160 million set to be paid upon the first approval of a product.

Prevail, launched in 2017, is developing gene therapies to slow or stop the underlying disease process for patients with neurodegenerative disorders. The company works with REGENXBIO using the NAV AAV9 vector technology seen in Novartis’ approved gene therapy Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec).

Lead candidate PR001 is in Phase I/II trials as a potential treatment for patients with Parkinson’s disease with GBA1 mutations (PD-GBA). PR006 is at a similar development stage but aims to treat patients with frontotemporal dementia with GRN mutations (FTD-GRN) via a single-dose.

The deal is the first venture into the gene therapy space for Eli Lilly, but unlikely to be the last, said CEO Dave Ricks.

“We, of course, constantly scan the landscape for new modalities that could become important in developing drugs in our core therapeutic areas,” he told stakeholders on a conference call discussing 2021 guidance yesterday.

“We did a comprehensive look at the field, we like where [Prevail is]. GBA was a very well profile target and they’re in the lead using more proven techniques for gene therapy. So it looks like a good entry point. I wouldn’t expect this to be our last effort in gene therapy.”

He added: “Gene therapy will be used for a variety of different diseases across different organ systems. But this is our starting place.”

The news comes a month after Lilly entered a research collaboration with Precision BioSciences for the exclusive license of Precision’s genome editing platform for the R&D of potential in vivo therapies for genetic disorders, with an initial focus on Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and two other undisclosed gene targets.

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