AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands, December 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
uniQure B.V., a leader in the field of human gene therapy, today announced a non-exclusive cross-licensing agreement with Benitec Biopharma Ltd. (ASX: BLT) giving uniQure access to Benitec's proprietary DNA-directed RNA interference (ddRNAi) technology in Huntington's disease. In return, uniQure granted Benitec non-exclusive access to the Company's AAV5 delivery technology for the development of a ddRNAi therapy for Hepatitis B.
"The cross-licensing agreement with Benitec fully capitalizes on the strength of our advanced AAV platform and our proven ability to deliver therapeutic genes to target cells with high accuracy and efficacy," says Jörn Aldag, CEO of uniQure. "The agreement with Benitec opens up promising new avenues to develop therapies for high unmet medical needs such as Huntington's disease. While our current programs focus on delivering fully functioning therapeutic genes to remedy faulty or malfunctioning genes, Benitec's ddRNAi technology will allow us to do the opposite - to 'silence' the gene responsible for producing the mutant protein that lies at the basis of Huntington's disease, and to develop a therapy for this devastating disease."
Dr Peter French, CEO of Benitec Biopharma, commented, "Benitec Biopharma is very pleased to have executed this licensing agreement with uniQure, the first company to achieve market approval for a gene therapy product, Glybera, in the West. uniQure have demonstrated their unique ability to take gene therapy-based programs from pre-clinical stages to commercialization, and we are confident that they will be able to achieve a similar outcome in this program. Importantly this agreement also provides Benitec access to uniQure's AAV delivery technology enabling further development of our ddRNAi treatment for Hepatitis B."
About Huntington's disease
Huntington's disease (HD) is a rare, chronic, incurable, progressive and disabling neurological condition, which continues to challenge the medical community. About 30,000 Americans (or 1 in 10,000 people) have Huntington's disease and at least 150,000 individuals have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. The symptoms of HD become most evident in adulthood, typically 30 to 55 years, characterized by sudden, abnormal, and uncontrolled jerky movements called chorea. Currently, therapeutics for HD are limited only to symptomatic treatments and there are no treatment options with proven safety and efficacy to slow down disease progression or enhance survival rate.
uniQure is a world leader in the development of human gene based therapies. uniQure's Glybera, a gene therapy for the treatment of lipoprotein lipase deficiency has been approved in the European Union, and is the first approved gene therapy in the Western world. uniQure's product pipeline of gene therapy products in development comprise hemophilia B, acute intermittent porphyria, Parkinson's disease and SanfilippoB. Using adeno-associated viral (AAV) derived vectors as the delivery vehicle of choice for therapeutic genes, the company has been able to design and validate probably the world's first stable and scalable AAV manufacturing platform. This proprietary platform can be applied to a large number of rare (orphan) diseases caused by one faulty gene, and allows uniQure to pursue its strategy of focusing on this sector of the industry. uniQure's largest shareholders are Forbion Capital Partners and Gilde Healthcare, two of the leading life sciences venture capital firms in the Netherlands. Further information can be found at http://www.uniqure.com.
About Benitec Biopharma
Benitec Biopharma Ltd is developing novel treatments for chronic and life-threatening conditions based on targeted gene-silencing activity using a transformational technology: DNA-directed RNA interference (ddRNAi) - sometimes called expressed RNAi. The technology's potential to address unmet medical needs and to cure disease results from its demonstrated ability to permanently silence genes which cause the condition. Importantly, this technology's target gene and related gene pathways will rarely have presented as a therapeutic avenue for research for the traditional small molecule agents, currently accounting for the majority of today's pharmaceutical products.
Founded in 1997 and trading publicly since 2001, Benitec Biopharma trades on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) under the symbol "BLT". Benitec aims to deliver a range of novel ddRNAi-based therapeutics to the clinic in partnership with the pharmaceutical industry. Besides a focused R&D strategy in infectious diseases, cancer and chronic cancer-associated pain, Benitec Biopharma is pursuing programs with licensees that have advanced to pre-clinical and/or clinical trials.
SOURCE uniQure B.V.