Bayer Boosts Its Gene Therapy Platform

28/10/20. The Basque company Viralgen, the first production site in Spain dedicated to the production of adeno-associated (AAV) viral vectors, has made public today the agreement that has been reached with the life science company Bayer for the acquisition of their production platform.

The framework of the deal is Bayer's recent announcement to acquire the north American biotechnological company AskBio, founder and owner of 50% of Viralgen, for a sum of USD 4 billion (USD 2 billion upfront and up to USD 2 billion in success-based milestone payments). In the same operation, Bayer has committed to acquiring the remaining 50% of Viralgen, currently owned by co-founder Columbus Venture Partners, within 30 days of closing of the AskBio deal.

The acquisition is beneficial for the goals of both companies, as well as for patients, investors, collaborators, and coworkers. Viralgen will continue to operate independently, as it has until now, and will retain its corporate identity, as well as the managing team and the professional team who work at the plant of the Parque Científico y Tecnológico de Gipuzkoa (San Sebastián). The high qualification and experience of the Viralgen team in the development and production of gene therapies is of major importance for Bayer, since this level of knowledge and specialization is rare in industry.

Viralgen's expansion plans will continue as scheduled, with the goal to become a reference in the production of gene therapies for multiple clients around the world. The acquisition of Viralgen boosts Bayer's gene therapy platform and its potential to offer urgently needed treatments to patients in areas of unmet medical need. Bayer adds to its portfolio an industry leading AAV gene therapy platform with proven efficacy across therapeutic areas. AskBio's and Viralgen's exclusive Pro10™ technology, the most advanced in industry and unique in Europe, enables efficient production of new products at scale, making gene therapy treatments available to a wider number of people. Bayer's newly established CGT unit will bundle Bayer's activities in this area moving forward in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for the participating partners within the Bayer organization.

Javier García Cogorro, CEO of Viralgen, who informed the media today about the acquisition, is very positive about the operation. “It is great news for both companies, for their clients, investors, and coworkers. And also, for people who suffer from currently uncurable diseases and for whom gene therapy means hope” he says. “It is as well good news for San Sebastian, given that with this deal and with Bayer's support, the city will gain international visibility and consolidates as an innovation hub for biotechnology and Life Sciences in Europe and in the world”.

Wolfram Carius, Executive Vice President for Cell & Gene Therapies at Bayer, has highlighted the importance and impact of Viralgen on the economies of the Basque Country and of Spain, and he subscribes to the commitment of Viralgen to the society where it resides. “Viralgen will play a key role in the development of Bayer's emerging CGT business, and it [Viralgen] will accordingly receive significant support” he says. Bayer's Executive Vice President has highlighted Viralgen's experience in the development and manufacturing of gene therapies, knowledge that is not easily found in industry. “The compliance with cGMP guidelines and the quality of the final product are essential in the manufacturing process in order to guarantee the safety and efficacy of these very specialized products. Here Viralgen brings key expertise”. He has also highlighted the “valuable support that Viralgen has received from public institutions and from the Basque Government for the further development of Viralgen's key capabilities”, and has committed to continue to collaborate with the regional authorities in the field of biotechnology, in order to make of Viralgen “an even more potent company in the international sector”.