Roche's Spark unit inks gene circuit technology deal with Senti Bio

Roche's Spark Therapeutics unit entered into a deal potentially worth more than $645 million that will see it incorporate Senti Biosciences' gene circuit technology into its own gene therapies targeting the central nervous system (CNS), eye or liver, the companies reported Tuesday. Federico Mingozzi, chief scientific officer at Spark, suggested that Senti Bio "is at the forefront of using synthetic biology to engineer gene circuits to create therapies with enhanced therapeutic properties that increase efficacy, precision and control."

Under the terms of the collaboration and option agreement, Senti Bio will be responsible for designing, building and testing cell type- and disease specific-synthetic promoters for use in certain CNS, ocular or liver-directed gene therapies. Spark has the option to exclusively license a set number of these promoters to use in developing gene therapy candidates in specified indications, and if the Roche unit chooses to do so, it will then take on the responsibility for preclinical, clinical and commercialisation activities.

Gene circuits 'critical' to advanced cell, gene therapy

The deal calls for Spark to make an unspecified upfront payment to Senti Bio, as well as provide funding to support its research activities. Further, if Spark chooses to exercise its option, Senti Bio stands to receive a further payment, as well as development, regulatory and sales milestones plus royalties on a per-product basis. Taken together, these payments could exceed $645 million, the companies said.

"We view gene circuits as a critical component of any advanced cell and gene therapy, regardless of therapeutic area or delivery modality," remarked Senti Bio CEO Tim Lu, adding that the Spark deal "aligns with our goal of enabling truly dynamic therapies that have the ability to discriminate between certain cell types, selectively express various payloads, and respond to diverse disease environments."

Senti Bio is also applying its gene circuit technology platform to develop its own internal pipeline of allogeneic CAR-NK cells, including SENTI-202 for acute myeloid leukaemia and SENTI-301 for hepatocellular carcinoma. Bayer, which launched a dedicated cell and gene therapy platform within its pharmaceuticals division in December, led a $105-million funding round for Senti Bio earlier this year.

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