Roche to buy gene therapy firm Spark for $4.3bn

The acquisition of Spark Therapeutics will add commercial product Luxturna to Roche’s portfolio, along with a pipeline of gene therapies.

Swiss pharma firm Roche has announced today it is set to buy Spark Therapeutics for approximately $4.3 billion (€3.8 billion).

“The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of Spark Therapeutics and Roche,” Roche spokesperson Simone Oeschger told BioProcess Insider.

Roche is buying Spark for $4.3 billion. Image: iStock/maxsattana

“Under the terms of the merger agreement, Roche will promptly commence a tender offer, to acquire all outstanding shares of Spark Therapeutics common stock, and Spark Therapeutics will file a recommendation statement containing the unanimous recommendation of the Spark Therapeutics board that Spark Therapeutics’ shareholders tender their shares to Roche.”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Spark has already seen regulatory success with its product Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec), a one-time gene therapy for an inherited retinal disease approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2017.

But Roche has its eye – pardon the pun – on the firm’s wider gene therapy pipeline, which “represents an attractive opportunity for Roche to broaden and supplement [its] portfolio globally,” Oeschger said.

Further clinical assets include SPK-8011 and SPK-8016 for hemophilia A, SPK-9001 for hemophilia B or factor IX deficiency, and SPK-7001 for the potential treatment of choroideremia.

“Earlier pre-clinical programs include gene therapies for the potential treatment of Huntington’s disease and Stargardt disease as well as three undisclosed clinical assets,” she added.

Accelerate gene therapies

The deal also propels Roche into the forefront of cell and gene therapies. Up until now, the firm has been relatively quiet within this “new frontier in medical innovation,” though it has invested in next-generation T-cell engaging bispecific antibodies.

“As the only biotechnology company that has successfully commercialized a gene therapy for a genetic disease in the US, we have built unmatched competencies in the discovery, development and delivery of genetic medicines,” Spark Therapeutics’ CEO Jeffrey Marrazzo said in a statement.

“With its worldwide reach and extensive resources, Roche will help us accelerate the development of more gene therapies for more patients for more diseases and further expedite our vision of a world where no life is limited by genetic disease.”

According to Reuters, Roche beat at least one other unidentified bidder to reach a merger deal with Spark.

Roche expects the deal to close in the second quarter of 2019.

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