It’s a very rewarding trading day for investors in Axovant Sciences (NASDAQ:AXON) with shares up nearly 115%, making the stock Wall Street’s bull of the day. Why the excitement? The biotech firm announced that it has licensed the exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize OXB-102, now AXO-Lenti-PD, from Oxford BioMedica.
AXO-Lenti-PD is an investigational gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease that delivers three genes encoding a critical set of enzymes required for dopamine synthesis in the brain. Oxford BioMedica is a world leader in lentiviral vector product development and manufacturing, and will be the clinical and commercial supplier of AXO-Lenti-PD. Axovant expects to initiate a Phase 1/2 dose escalation study of AXO-Lenti-PD in patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease by the end of 2018.
Under the terms of the license agreement with Oxford BioMedica, Axovant obtained rights to AXO-Lenti-PD, as well as its predecessor product ProSavin®, for an initial payment of $30 million in cash, $5 million of which will be applied as a credit against the process development work and clinical supply that Oxford BioMedica will provide to Axovant. Oxford BioMedica is also eligible to receive additional development, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments potentially in excess of $812 million, and tiered royalties on net sales of AXO-Lenti-PD, if approved. Roivant has agreed to purchase $25 million of Axovant common shares, which will support the clinical development of AXO-Lenti-PD and additional business development activities.
Fraser Wright, PhD, will join Axovant as Chief Technology Officer overseeing the company’s gene therapy initiatives. Dr. Wright is the Co-Founder and former Chief Technology Officer of Spark Therapeutics and has over 20 years of leadership experience in the development of novel vector-based biologic products. At Spark he oversaw process development and clinical-stage manufacturing for LUXTURNA™. Prior to Spark, he was the founding Scientific Director of the Clinical Vector Core Laboratory at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he directed clinical core staff in gene therapy investigational product development, manufacture, and quality control testing for ten first-in-human viral vector investigational products including LUXTURNA™ and Kymriah®. He was also previously the Director of Development and Clinical Manufacturing at Avigen. Dr. Wright was formerly a Research Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and he is the lead inventor on numerous issued patents during his time in that role. He received his BSc and PhD in biochemistry from the University of Toronto, where he was also an assistant professor of biochemistry and medicine.
Pavan Cheruvu, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Axovant, stated: “Axovant remains committed to developing innovative treatments for serious neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and we are excited to partner with Oxford BioMedica, a recognized global leader in cell and gene therapy. We are also pleased to welcome Fraser to our leadership team. He brings over two decades of experience in gene therapy manufacturing, and will be committed to building world-class gene therapy capabilities at Axovant. We will continue to pursue promising new therapeutic approaches based on transformative science, and will further expand our pipeline with high-quality assets like AXO-Lenti-PD. This is part of our long-term goal of building Axovant into a leader in the development and commercialization of innovative new medicines for neurological indications.”
“This is an exciting time to join Axovant, and I look forward to the opportunity to work closely with Oxford BioMedica and help build gene therapy capabilities at Axovant,” said Dr. Wright. “AXO-Lenti-PD is a strong foundation for Axovant’s new pipeline, and I am excited to begin preparing the Phase 1/2 clinical study in advanced Parkinson’s disease later this year.”
Commenting on the announcement, John Dawson, Chief Executive Officer of Oxford BioMedica said: “We are delighted to sign this significant agreement which not only underlines our LentiVector®-enabled platform and product development strategy but further demonstrates Oxford BioMedica’s ability to build multiple partnerships with leaders in their respective therapeutics fields. We believe Axovant’s expertise and focus on neurological disorders, which includes Parkinson’s disease, makes them an ideal development and commercialisation partner for this programme. Coupled with strong support and financial resources from parent company Roivant, we believe Axovant is well positioned to advance the development of AXO-Lenti-PD for the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s, a disease which still has a high unmet need.”
TipRanks reveals AXON as a stock that has not drawn a vote of confidence among Wall Street opinion. Out of 9 analysts polled in the last 12 months, 3 are bullish on the stock, while 7 remain sidelined.