In March 2009, the biotechnology companies Origen Therapeutics and Genavia Therapeutics announced an agreement allowing Genavia to access Origen’s transgenic animal-based technology to develop therapies for disorders such as hemophilia. Transgenic animals receive altered genetic material inserted with DNA technology to elicit the production of certain therapeutic proteins. Origen’s patented technology results in transgenic chickens that synthesize human proteins in the egg white. One of these proteins-- the first slated for therapy development--is factor VIII (FVIII) for the treatment of patients with hemophilia A.
The transgenic animal-based technology allows biotech companies to produce drugs more economically. The cell cultures currently used in manufacturing FVIII are costly. Most patients in the US on average spend $200,000 or more for their factor product yearly. It is estimated that this technology could reduce the cost to 20% of the current market price.
Under the terms of the agreement, Genavia will have rights to use Origen’s transgenic technology to develop, manufacture and market FVIII. In the future, the company may also use the technology to develop factor VII and factor IX protein therapies. In exchange, Origen will receive equity in Genavia, royalties and other payments.
The use of transgenic animals, such as cows, mice, sheep, rabbits and pigs, is a burgeoning area of research and development, with the potential for a number of novel therapies. In February 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ATryn®, an anticoagulant therapy produced in the milk of genetically engineered goats to prevent blood clots in people with hereditary antithrombin deficiency, a rare coagulation disorder. ATryn is the first approved drug to be produced using genetically engineered animals in the U.S.
“Genavia is the sort of innovative and dynamic market focused company we were looking for to bring products from our broad-based technology platform to market,” said Robert Kay, Origen’s Chief Executive Officer. “If successfully developed, this effort is likely to result in an early commercial application of Origen’s proprietary technology. We look forward to working together with Genavia to develop products that bring meaningful benefits to the hemophilia community.”
“This partnership is yet another example of New Zealand’s biotechnology industry seeing an opportunity and taking a global view to solve a serious problem,” said Genavia’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Bradley. “Origen’s technology is truly innovative and by significantly lowering the cost of FVIII production, could help to substantially improve the lives of hemophiliacs the world over.”
Origen Therapeutics is based in Emeryville, CA. Genavia Therapeutics, founded in 2008, is headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand.
Source: Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, March 9, 2009