For Sangamo Therapeutics, last week is probably one to forget. Late Friday, the gene-based therapy biotech revealed it had lost two partners in quick succession, with Biogen and Novartis walking away from partnerships collectively worth billions of dollars in milestones within days of each other.
Novartis was the first to break up with Sangamo. One week ago, the Swiss Big Pharma told Sangamo of its plans to terminate the agreement the companies entered into in 2020. Back then, Novartis paid $75 million upfront and committed up to $720 million in milestones to apply Sangamo’s zinc finger protein transcription factors (ZFP-TFs) to three genes associated with neurodevelopmental disorders.
The collaboration, which covered autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, was due to expire in July with the delivery of ZFP-TFs for each of the three programs to Novartis. However, Big Pharma has turned down the delivery, leaving Sangamo to consider whether to seek a new partner or take the programs forward internally “dependent on the outcome of a broader strategic review of its preclinical pipeline of therapies to treat patients suffering from central nervous system disorders.”
Novartis told Sangamo the decision relates to its recent strategic review. The same review has already seen Novartis dump other partnerships, walk away from a Pliant Therapeutics program and drop plans to develop an ex vivo sickle cell disease therapy with Intellia Therapeutics.
Before Sangamo could break the Novartis news to investors, it learned a second partner is cutting its ties. Friday, Biogen told Sangamo that it will terminate their collaboration in June. Biogen formed the partnership in 2020, paying $125 million upfront and committing up to $2.37 billion in milestones to work on up to 12 neurological disease gene targets.
The Big Biotech selected four targets involved in tauopathies, Parkinson’s disease, myotonic dystrophy type 1 and an undisclosed disease. Sangamo, splitting the costs with Biogen, set out to apply proprietary delivery vectors and ZFP-TFs to the targets and met proof-of-mechanism objectives for three of the four candidates. But Biogen has opted against continuing the collaboration.
As with the Novartis programs, Sangamo will consider the next steps as part of the broader review of its preclinical pipeline. The pipeline review is taking place against the backdrop of a potential cash crunch at Sangamo, which withdrew plans to raise money at the start of March “after evaluating market conditions.” Sangamo forecasts its remaining cash will keep it going for at least 12 months.