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The new company will develop proprietary RNA-based therapeutics and will provide broad lentiviral development and manufacturing expertise and support.
Vectalys, a biotech company specializing in the manufacture of lentiviral solutions for gene delivery, announced on May 16, 2018, that it merged with FlashCell, a company established in 2017 for developing non-integrating lentiviral-delivered RNA therapeutics, to form a new company, Flash Therapeutics, a privately held gene therapy company developing gene and cell therapeutics. Financial terms of the merger were not disclosed.
The new company will advance two complementary businesses. The first deals with the development of new RNA therapeutics based on LentiFlash, a proprietary non-integrative lentiviral delivery technology for incurable diseases. The second involves fulfilling a worldwide contract by providing development and manufacturing expertise and support-from discovery through GMP production-for lentivirally delivered RNA and DNA therapies.
Under the merger transaction, Flash Therapeutics received a EUR 3.3 million (US$3.9 million) investment from Auriga Partners, a private equity investor, through the AurigaIV Bioseed fund; Galia Gestion, a private equity fund based in Bordeaux, France; and two angel investors, Jean-Pierre Arnaud and Alain Sainsot. Auriga and Vectalys were initial investors in FlashCell when it was established.
LentiFlash technology delivers RNA into cells with high efficiency for short-term expression without integrating genetic material into the host cells’ genome, unlike conventional lentiviral vectors, which deliver DNA that integrates into the target cells’ genome and results in stable expression. The technology has demonstrated potential to expand the use of lentiviral delivery along with advanced technologies, such as gene editing and next-generation immunotherapy, that may not be compatible with conventional lentiviral vectors used as therapeutics, the company reports.
“Flash Therapeutics capitalizes on both the emergence of gene and cell therapies as major new therapeutic modalities for the treatment of genetic and other previously untreatable diseases, and of lentiviral vectors as a commercially and medically validated approach to gene delivery,” said Pascale Bouillé, PhD, CEO of Flash Therapeutics, in a company press release. “Our new company is positioned to build on the lentiviral development and production technologies Vectalys developed and applied over the past 13 years, and to advance a new class of RNA therapies based on its transient, non-integrating lentiviral technology, LentiFlash.”
“LentiFlash technology combines both delivery efficiency without cell damage of viral vectors and safety of RNA delivery,” Bouillé added.
Flash Therapeutics is initially developing RNA therapeutics based on LentiFlash for blood and liver diseases. The company plans to collaborate with pharmaceutical and biotechnology partners to develop RNA therapies in other disease areas, Bouillé noted.
The company’s lentiviral development and production business, which will continue to operate under the Vectalys manufacturing platform name, will expand as part of Flash Therapeutics to include scalable GMP manufacturing capabilities. The GMP facility, expected to be fully operational in 2019, is being established through a recently signed, three-year partnership with Hospital Saint-Louis, Lariboisière, Fernand-Widal (Assistance Public Hospitals of Paris APHP) to develop and produce gene and cell therapy drugs.
“Rapid growth in the development of gene and cell therapies, along with an increasing number of products in clinical trials, are driving the global need for lentiviral manufacturing technology and expertise,” Bouillé said in the press release. “With capabilities for development and manufacturing that will span from discovery through GMP production, Flash Therapeutics is poised to fill that need. Our lentiviral development and production technologies, along with LentiFlash, will allow us to participate broadly in the development and commercialization of gene and cell therapy in a wide range of difficult-to-treat diseases.”
“Jean-Pierre Arnaud and Alain Sainsot will also bring their strong industrial experience and know-how to Flash Therapeutics, which holds the key to addressing existing technological barriers in gene therapies,” said Franck Lescure, partner in charge of Auriga IV Bioseeds at Auriga Partners, in the press release.