Boston Research Company Bets on UT Southwestern Researcher's Gene Therapy

A biotech company founded on the research of a UT Southwestern Medical Center doctor is one step closer to a clinical trial after it was acquired by a Massachusetts company in a deal that could total up to $1 billion.The deal for Exonics Therapeutics, co-founded in 2017 by noted researcher Dr. Eric Olson, will allow for expedited research and development of the company’s gene editing therapies for neuromuscular diseases, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy.Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals will pay Exonics shareholders $245 million upfront and future payments of more than $700 million if the company meets certain regulatory and clinical milestones. Vertex and Exonics declined to disclose specific milestones.“This merger with Vertex will enable us to move technology forward as quickly as possible to reach patients in need,” Olson said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News.Exonics had a number of interested companies to choose from but Vertex was the best option, in part because of its commitment to build a new lab for its gene therapy programs in the Boston area, Olson said.Olson, 63, is Exonics’ chief scientific adviser and the molecular biology department chair at UT Southwestern. His research focuses on repairing dystrophin, the main protein missing in people with Duchenne.He started Exonics with a $5 million commitment from CureDuchenne Ventures, the investment arm of the research group that aims to treat and cure the muscle disease. That was followed by $40 million from The Column Group, a San Francisco venture capital firm that invests in therapeutics and drug startups.  Continue reading...

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