Intrexon to buy floundering GenVec for gene delivery tech

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Intrexon hopes to increase the packaging capacity of viral vectors to 30kb or more

Intrexon is set to buy GenVec in an all-stock deal to add a gene delivery platform to its arsenal. The goal is to pair the technology with Intrexon’s existing capabilities to create viral delivery vectors with significantly greater payload capacities.

Germantown, Maryland-based Intrexon has agreed to pay $7 a share for its Gaithersburg, Maryland-based neighbor, a price approximately 50% higher than that GenVec was trading at prior to news of the deal. Intrexon will also give GenVec shareholders half of any milestones and royalties that result from the latter's pact with Novartis over the next three years.

In return for the outlay, Intrexon has secured AdenoVerse, a platform of adenovirus vectors for use in gene delivery for therapeutics and vaccines. Intrexon plans to pair the platform with its existing suite of technologies.

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“Intrexon's proficiency in using various viral as well as non-viral transfer techniques to integrate our gene programs affords us the capability to pursue an array of in vivo and ex vivo gene and cell therapy approaches, and the addition of a helper-dependent adenoviral system with a substantial payload capacity dramatically expands the types of in vivo therapeutic programs we can pursue,” Intrexon CSO Thomas Reed said in a statement.

The goal is to enable adenoviral delivery of payloads of 30kb or more. Adenoviruses typically have a packaging capacity of 7-8kb, as do retroviruses. Researchers have worked for years to increase the payloads of viral vectors so they can carry multiple genes and native transcriptional regulatory elements. Intrexon thinks it can succeed where others have struggled by pairing the technologies. 

Given that GenVec’s market cap clocked in at $13.6 million following a post-deal-announcement bump, Intrexon—a company with a $2.4 billion market cap and a billionaire CEO—is risking little to test out its hunch.

GenVec was a gene delivery pioneer but never fully recovered from the phase 3 failure of its pancreatic cancer candidate in 2010. That wiped a chunk off the company’s stock price, which had already fallen considerably from the IPO value it secured at a time when the dot-com bubble was starting to cause chaos on Nasdaq.

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