Annapurna Therapeutics has just announced it will collaborate with Weill Cornell Medicine to develop a market-leading partnership specialized in gene therapy. One of these therapies currently under Annapurna’s exclusive development targets cardiomyopathy as it is associated with Friedreich’s ataxia, a disease that affects between 10,000 and 20,000 people in the U.S. and Europe.
Friedreich’s ataxia patients generally lose full control of their bodily movements, but many FA patients die from progressive cardiac complications leading to eventual heart failure.
Annapurna – former AAVLife SAS – will continue to use its adeno-associated viral vectors, working with Weill Cornell to produce gene therapies using manufacturing processes previously used to produce material for clinical trials.
“This collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine amounts to a step change in our ambitions at Annapurna,” Amber Salzman, Ph.D., president and CEO of Annapurna, said in a press release. “We are bringing together a promising pipeline, a proven manufacturing technology, and a team of managers and advisers with deep experience in gene-therapy development.”
Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, will serve as Annapurna’s chief scientific adviser.
“With Annapurna, we intend to advance promising discoveries made in our laboratories at Weill Cornell Medicine into clinical studies,” Crystal said. “Both sides understand the urgent need to make the promise of gene therapy a reality for patients needing better treatment options.”
The journal Human Gene Therapy in 2014 awarded Crystal its Pioneer Award in recognition for his work on viral vectors to advance therapeutic genes. Crystal also serves as the Bruce Webster Professor of Internal Medicine and a professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Annapurna has also appointed Carlo Russo, M.D., as its CMO and head of development, due to his work as a senior vice president at GlaxoSmithKline, where he led the development of the first GSK gene-therapy product for severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome. Russo had previously served as CEO of Vaxinnate Corporation and has held academic appointments at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Annapurna’s agreement with Weill Cornell Medicine, which will now receive milestone payments and royalties on sales, adds several programs to Annapurna’s pipeline, including severe allergies, hereditary angioedema and Alpha1-antitrypsin (A1AT) deficiency.
Thomas Woiwode, Ph.D., the managing director at Versant Ventures — a financer of Annapurna — said, “We’re thrilled to be working with Amber and Ron and the deeply experienced management team at Annapurna to develop our robust portfolio of gene-therapy products.”