On Aug. 1, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc., announced the company has acquired Bamboo, Inc., a biomedical startup company that is focused on the development of gene therapies for the treatment of rare diseases. Pfizer paid $150 million to the company for a deal that could ultimately be worth up to $645 million. The acquisition helps Pfizer to increase its market presence in treating rare diseases.
Gene Therapy Company
Gene therapy research has existed for the past 25 years, but it has had multiple setbacks. The therapy shows potential promise for treating intractable and incurable diseases by replacing defective genes with good ones. This could be a way for people to receive only one treatment rather than having to receive expensive, ongoing treatments for their conditions.
Pfizer had already purchased 22 percent of the company for $43 million earlier in 2016. The $150 million allows Pfizer to purchase the remainder of the privately held company. If Bamboo’s candidate therapies are successful in clinical trials, are approved by the FDA and are commercially successful, its shareholders will be eligible for an additional $495 million in the form of milestone payments.
Pfizer stated that only 5 percent of the 7,000 known rare diseases have medications that have been approved for their treatment. Pfizer has a rare diseases research unit, and in 2014, it set up a genetic medicines institute within the unit.
Bamboo, Inc. is based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The company employs fewer than 40 employees, most of whom will remain working for Pfizer. Bamboo has a fully operational manufacturing facility of 11,000 square feet. Pfizer has indicated that it plans to keep the manufacturing facility there in operation. The company has a number of candidate gene therapy products, all of which are in the early stages of development or in pre-clinical trials. One of its products, a gene therapy for the treatment of giant axonal neuropathy, is ready for clinical trials, and Bamboo is currently enrolling patients for the trial phase. The gene therapy company’s other products are focused on the treatment of Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, Canavan disease and Friederich’s ataxia.
While the U.S. government has not approved any gene therapies for the treatment of rare diseases, two have been approved in Europe. Bamboo uses viral vectors in order to deliver the good genes into the cells to replace the mutated ones. Its technology has not been tested on humans yet. While the acquisition by Pfizer of Bamboo does bring with it some risk, Pfizer is not the only pharmaceutical company that is investing in gene therapies. Bristol Myers-Squibb is working with uniQure to develop gene therapies for the treatment of heart disease. The ultimate success of the deal will depend on whether or not any of Bamboo’s gene therapy products are successful in trials, approved by the FDA and meet commercial success upon their release. If the government does approve gene therapies for treatment, then a number of rare diseases may potentially be treatable.
Bamboo was founded in 2014 by executives who had earlier founded Aslekios Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in 2003, which is a biotech company that is focused on gene delivery systems. Bamboo’s chief executive officer will remain working for Pfizer following the acquisition.
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