Astellas becomes latest Dyno gene therapy partner with $1.6B biobucks pact to join Roche, Novartis, Sarepta

A $1.6 billion biobucks pact sounds like a whopping number. But for Dyno Therapeutics, the deal with Astellas Pharma is the latest in a string of partnerships for its gene therapy vectors platform. 

Astellas is dishing out $18 million upfront and up to $1.6 billion in milestone and royalty payments to develop adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for gene therapies. The research tie-up follows a deal between Dyno and Roche and its Spark Therapeutics unit, which was disclosed last October and could balloon to above $1.8 billion. 

The Astellas partnership comes a year and a half after Dyno raised its curtains in May 2020. Dyno had already formed deals with Novartis and Sarepta Therapeutics that could net it up to $2 billion.

Now, Astellas wants to tap into Dyno's AAV capsids platform to develop gene therapies for skeletal and cardiac muscles. 

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Under terms of the deal, Dyno will design the AAV capsids and Astellas will conduct all preclinical, clinical and marketing functions. Dyno can receive more than $235 million for each product developed using the capsids. 

AAV vectors have run into limitations and were examined by an FDA advisory committee in the autumn due to safety concerns. The two-day marathon examined safety issues associated with two AAV-delivered gene therapies: Novartis’ Zolgensma for spinal muscular atrophy and Spark Therapeutics’ Luxturna for inherited retinal disease. 

Aside from safety issues, AAVs are beset with manufacturing hurdles, limited payloads and a narrower scope of tissues they can target. Gene therapies that are delivered using AAVs also face the risk of not working in people who have a natural immunity to the virus used to shuttle in the gene therapy. 

Dyno thinks it can address that issue with a new capsid, or the protein shell that covers viral vectors and targets cells. 

RELATED: Another death blights Astellas' $3B Audentes buy as FDA slaps clinical hold on the test

The partnership with Dyno comes after Astellas beefed up its gene therapy unit with the $3 billion acquisition of Audentes Therapeutics. However, a trial for a gene therapy picked up through that deal saw a fourth patient death. The gene therapy, dubbed AT132, is being evaluated for a rare neuromuscular disease called X-linked myotubular myopathy.