Syncona merges Freeline and SwanBio to spur new gene-therapy-focused biotech

Seven months after Syncona threw a financial lifeline to struggling Freeline Therapeutics, the London-based investment firm is giving the biotech another present in the form of fellow gene therapy company SwanBio.

Both Freeline and SwanBio were founded by Syncona. Now, the firm is overseeing Freeline's acquisition of SwanBio to create a new entity called Spur Therapeutics. Spur will be 99% owned by Syncona and is set to have a valuation of around £104.7 million ($132.7 million), with Syncona committing $50 million to fund development of the company's pipeline.

This pipeline will feature Freeline’s lead Gaucher disease program FLT201, which is due to enter phase 3 in 2025, as well as SwanBio’s phase 1/2 program for the neurodegenerative disease adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN).

The company plans to report initial safety date from the higher-dose cohort of the AMN program, dubbed SBT101, in the first half of next year. SBT101 is the only gene therapy in development for the inherited spinal chord condition, Spur noted.

“Our new name and new brand reflect our determination to alter the course of a disease with a single dose of genetic medicine and change the course of people’s lives,” said Michael Parini, who was CEO of Freeline until today, when he transfers over to become CEO of Spur. “By optimizing every component of our product candidates to get just the right expression, packaged and delivered to the body in just the right way, we are working to develop a new generation of therapies that spur gene therapy forward to transform the lives of even more patients.”

It's not the first time Syncona has nudged Freeline onto its chosen path. In November 2023, Syncona paid a 51% premium on the biotech’s share price to bring it under the firm’s control, citing the “compelling data” for FLT201.

Further back in Spur’s pipeline is a research program leveraging the same transgene as FLT201 to treat Parkinson’s disease. The aim is to have a development candidate selected later this year, which can then be taken into preclinical trials.

“We see great promise across Spur’s broadened pipeline, with a highly differentiated lead clinical program backed by compelling data and a second potentially first-in-class clinical asset,” Chris Hollowood, CEO of Syncona Investment Management Limited and chairman of Spur’s board of directors, said in this morning’s announcement.