Roche Moves into the Gene Therapy Space

Roche has acquired Spark Therapeutics for $4.8 billion.

With the first gene therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec), Spark Therapeutics is one of the top leaders in the gene therapy field—and it will soon become part of Roche.

Rumors of a potential deal for Spark Therapeutics were first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Possible buyers included Pfizer and Novartis, both of which have established partnerships with the gene therapy company. Instead, the buyer turned out to be Roche, which is acquiring Spark for approximately $4.8 billion. 

With the acquisition, Roche gains access to Spark’s pipeline of candidates targeting neurodegenerative diseases, retinal diseases, and hemophilia and lysosomal storage disorders. While Roche’s Hemlibra (emicizumab) hemophilia treatment is doing well, it will soon face competition from several gene therapies. Spark brings two late-stage gene therapies targeting hemophilia A and B that could be complementary to Hemlibra. One caveat: the latter candidate (SPK-9001) is being developed in partnership with Pfizer, and Spark is set to receive a low-teen percentage on future net sales of the drug.

This deal, which is expected to close in Q2 2019, follows others in the gene therapy space, including Novartis’ purchase of AveXis for $8.7 billion, including its spinal muscular atrophy gene therapy, AbbVie’s collaboration with Voyager Therapeutics on gene therapies for Parkinson's disease and Johnson & Johnson’s licensing agreement with MeiraGTx for gene therapies to treat inherited retinal diseases. 

Wall Street analysts expect that the Roche deal could spark additional acquisitions, with Sangamo Therapeutics, Abeona Therapeutics, Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical and Intellia Therapeutics identified as top targets.



Cynthia A. Challener, Ph.D.

Dr. Challener is an established industry editor and technical writing expert in the areas of chemistry and pharmaceuticals. She writes for various corporations and associations, as well as marketing agencies and research organizations, including That’s Nice and Nice Insight.