RARE Daily

UCB Strengthens Focus on Gene Therapy through Two Deals

November 12, 2020

Rare Daily Staff

Belgian biopharma UCB accelerated its ambitions in gene therapy through two new deals to strengthen its early stage AAV gene therapy pipeline: the acquisition of Belgian biotech Handl Therapeutics and a separate collaboration with U.S.-based Lacerta Therapeutics.

UCB, which is focused on developing treatments for people living with severe disease of the immune system of the central nervous system, believes gene therapy strengthens its capabilities to move from symptomatic treatments to disease modification and eventually towards a cure. The two transactions build upon the strategic acquisition of Element Genomics in 2018 that strengthened UCB’s genomics and epigenomics research platforms, which aid in the identification of novel drug targets.

“The acquisition of Handl Therapeutics BV and the new partnership with Lacerta Therapeutics offers us the potential to drive a fundamental change in how diseases are treated, by moving us from treating symptoms to disease modification and eventually towards a cure,” said Dhavalkumar Patel, UCB’s chief scientific officer.

Handl Therapeutics was founded in 2019 to deploy the power of in vivo gene therapy to treat complex neurodegenerative diseases through AAV capsid technology. The company has built a strong international network to access global capabilities and expertise, combining state of the art technology platforms and scientific advances licensed from various research centers.

The Handl Therapeutics team will continue to be based in Leuven, Belgium, and will work very closely with UCB’s international research teams.

In addition to acquiring Handl Therapeutics, UCB also signed a new collaboration with Lacerta Therapeutics.

A 2017 spin-off from the University of Florida, Lacerta Therapeutics’ mission is to make AAV-based therapies available for all patients with rare and serious neurological disorders. The research collaboration and licensing agreement with UCB will focus on a central nervous system disease with a high unmet need. Lacerta Therapeutics will lead research, preclinical activities and the early manufacturing process development, while UCB will complete IND-enabling studies, manufacturing and clinical development. This new collaboration will allow UCB to access Lacerta Therapeutics’ expertise in AAV-based CNS targeted gene therapies, strengthening UCB’s ability to produce effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed but UCB said they do not impact its financial outlook for 2020.

Photo: Dhavalkumar Patel, UCB’s chief scientific officer

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