Novartis is acquiring US-based Nasdaq-listed clinical stage gene therapy company, AveXis, for $8.7 billion.
AveXis has several ongoing clinical studies for the treatment of SMA, an inherited neurodegenerative disease caused by a defect in a single gene, the survival motor neuron.
The lead AveXis gene therapy candidate, AVXS-101, has highly compelling clinical data in treating SMA Type 1, which is the number one genetic cause of death in infants, where 9 out of 10 infants do not live to their second birthday or are permanently ventilator dependent. It is estimated that one out of every 6,000-10,000 children born is affected by some form of SMA.
Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan said: “The proposed acquisition of AveXis offers an extraordinary opportunity to transform the care of SMA. We believe AVXS-101 could create a lifetime of possibilities for the children and families impacted by this devastating condition.
“The acquisition would also accelerate our strategy to pursue high-efficacy, first-in-class therapies and broaden our leadership in neuroscience. We would gain with the team at AveXis another gene therapy platform, in addition to our CAR-T platform for cancer, to advance a growing pipeline of gene therapies across therapeutic areas.”
The US FDA has granted AVXS-101 Orphan Drug designation for the treatment of SMA as well as Breakthrough Therapy designation for SMA Type 1.
A BLA filing with the FDA for AVXS-101 is expected in the second half of 2018 and approval and launch in the US is expected in 2019. PRIME and Sakigake designations have been secured in Europe and Japan, respectively.
If approved, AVXS-101 would be a first-in-class one-time therapy that addresses the root genetic cause of SMA by effectively replacing the defective SMN1 gene.
In a clinical study, AVXS-101 showed life-saving efficacy, with all 15 infants treated event free at 20 months compared with an event-free survival rate of 8 percent in an historical cohort (NEJM, November 2017). AveXis will also present two-year data to the American Academy of Neurology on April 25, 2018.
The transaction is expected to close in mid-2018.