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CombiGene’s CEO on the terminated collaboration with Spark

CombiGenes vd om det avslutade Spark-avtalet

CombiGene’s CEO on the terminated collaboration with Spark

16 October, 2023

Over the weekend, CombiGene received the news that Spark Therapeutics has terminated the collaboration agreement for the epilepsy project CG01. BioStock reached out to CEO Peter Ekolind for a comment on the unexpected announcement and what prompted the decision.

CombiGene’s drug candidate CG01 is being developed to treat drug-resistant focal epilepsy, the most common form of epilepsy in adult epileptics.

In 2021, CombiGene signed a collaboration and license agreement worth up to USD 328.5 million with US-based Spark Therapeutics for the project’s continued development.

CombiGene’s CEO on the termination of the collaboration

Over the weekend, Spark unexpectedly announced that, despite the project still being considered promising, it had decided to deprioritise the candidate as part of its current pipeline. To find out how CombiGene views the terminated collaboration, BioStock contacted CombiGene’s CEO Peter Ekolind.

Peter, why is Spark terminating the collaboration?

– The reason for Spark Therapeutics to cancel the collaboration agreement is that they have deprioritised the CG01 project as part of their current pipeline based on strategic reasons.

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Peter Ekolind, CEO Combigene

Are there any preclinical setbacks behind the decision?

– I can’t see that, the preclinical programme is ongoing as planned and Spark recently announced that they were planning to take over the production of viral vectors (virus particles that deliver genetic material into the cells) from our contract manufacturer, which we interpreted as a very positive signal.

Could you have done anything to avoid the situation that has now arisen?

– It’s obviously a question I’ve asked myself several times over the weekend. We have handed over control and thus influence over the preclinical development work to Spark, but it is also the very basis for the out-licensing that we did in 2021. We have always had weekly meetings with the project team and regular steering group meetings, most recently in Stockholm during June when almost the entire Spark team was present. At that time, we saw no signs that a conclusion termination of the contract was imminent. So, I can’t see that we could have done anything to avoid this, it came as a total surprise to us.

CombiGene’s shareholders reasonably share your disappointment with the announcement from Spark. What can you say to them today?

– There are now three months until the collaboration ends in its entirety on January 12th. Until then, we will focus on analysing the data we receive from Spark and making decisions on how to handle CG01 going forward. When we have a plan going forward, we will communicate it to shareholders. At the same time, it is important to remember that CombiGene is currently a company with more than one project. Not only do we have CG01, but we are also continuing the work of collecting data for our second project, CGT2. In our new pain program COZY, we have two projects, a peptide and a gene therapy project with a high level of activity and a very large market potential. In addition, we are actively looking for new gene therapy projects to license to the company.

– Amid our great disappointment, however, we must realise that events like this are part of everyday life for all pharmaceutical companies. The development of pharmaceuticals is associated with extensive risks of both a technical and strategic business nature, which is one of the reasons why CombiGene is working hard to broaden the company project portfolio. Somewhat simplified – the more projects there are in the project portfolio, the greater the chances of success.

– We will, of course, intensively analyse how we optimally prioritise the use of our resources as a consequence of the termination of the collaboration with Spark.

The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.

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