Business

Sanofi to pay Voyager up to $845m in gene therapy deal

GENEVA — Sanofi has agreed to pay as much as $845 million to work with Voyager Therapeutics on gene-altering treatments for disorders including Parkinson’s disease, expanding its efforts in one of the most promising areas of treatment.

Sanofi’s Genzyme unit will pay Voyager, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., $100 million upfront, including taking a $30 million stake in the company, and as much as $745 million more based on development and sales targets, plus royalties, the companies said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The deal will give Sanofi the option to license experimental treatments for central nervous system disorders including Parkinson’s, Friedreich’s ataxia, and Huntington’s disease. The company is already working on gene therapies through a research collaboration established last year with two US universities.

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“The field of gene therapy has advanced rapidly in the past several years, and the science has never been better,” Genzyme’s chief executive, David Meeker, said in the statement.

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After years of setbacks, gene therapy is starting to emerge as one of the hottest areas in health care. Glybera, a treatment developed by Amsterdam-based UniQure BV for a rare disorder that causes inflammation of the pancreas, in 2012 became the first gene therapy approved in Europe. The drug debuted in November with a price of as much as $1.4 million per patient, depending on the person’s weight.

Spark Therapeutics Inc., a Philadelphia gene therapy developer, hit a $1.2 billion valuation on its first day on the market last month, while shares of Cambridge-based bluebird bio Inc. have risen fivefold since a June 2013 IPO.

Last year, Bayer AG said it would work on a gene therapy for hemophilia A with Dimension Therapeutics Inc. Also last year, Novartis AG said it established a unit to work on gene therapy.