GSK dials up value of MolMed gene therapy pact to support growing operation


GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has bumped up the value of its gene therapy pact with MolMed (BIT:MLM). The revisions increase the minimum value of the contract by 41%, clearing GSK to delve deeper into MolMed’s gene therapy development and manufacturing capabilities at a time when it is looking to establish itself at the forefront of the nascent field.

MolMed landed the GSK deal 18 months ago, at which time the Big Pharma committed to paying out at least €34 million ($38 million) in milestones and other fees. In return, GSK gained access to MolMed’s expertise and capabilities in gene therapies based on viral vector cellular transduction, resources it has now decided it needs to exploit more than it originally planned.

GSK has reset the minimum value of the contract at €48 million. MolMed described the 41% jump in the floor value of the contract as a reflection of GSK’s need to tap into additional resources to support its gene therapy programs. Notably, in the 18 months since signing the original deal, GSK has notched up its first gene therapy success, snagging a European approval for Strimvelis in May.

MolMed was involved with the development of Strimvelis before GSK licensed the program in 2010, and continued to play a role once the Big Pharma came on board. GSK struck deals to secure the help of MolMed in 2011, 2013 and 2015, culminating in the Italian biotech taking responsibility for the commercial production of the gene therapy against ADA-SCID.

Strimvelis is a niche product. ADA-SCID, an abbreviation of severe combined immunodeficiency due to adenosine deaminase deficiency, affects an estimated 15 children a year in Europe. But, with GSK seeing Strimvelis as a launchpad for a gene therapy platform that tackles more prevalent conditions, its approval marked a big moment for the Italian research centers that drove its development.

Fondazione Telethon and Ospedale San Raffaele, which have also worked with Biogen ($BIIB), Editas Medicine ($EDIT) and Shire ($SHPG), were central to the development of Strimvelis. MolMed played a major role, too. And, as the only facility cleared to produce the gene therapy, will continue to do so as GSK markets Strimvelis and works to expand its portfolio.

“The additional minimum revenues ... will clearly benefit one of the two pillars on which our company plans to build its growth: The supply of sophisticated services in cell and gene therapy field,” MolMed CEO Riccardo Palmisano said in a statement. MolMed has put money into its lab capabilities and production capacity to support growth of this side of the business.

That service business has propped MolMed up while it has worked to bring its own pipeline assets to market. The most advanced of these assets, Zalmoxis, secured conditional marketing authorization in Europe earlier this year. Zalmoxis is an ex vivo cell therapy designed to increase the proportion of patients with leukemia who can undergo hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.