Sanofi group Genzyme has signed a major deal with gene therapy start-up Voyager Therapeutics, which will see the groups embark on a journey to discover new treatments for serious central nervous system conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

The alliance has been set up to leverage Genzyme’s long-standing experience with adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy and Voyager’s AAV product engine to develop breakthrough therapies for patients with severe CNS disorders.

Potentially worth up to $845 million to Voyager, the deal is centred on multiple gene therapy programs, including for Friedreich’s ataxia and Huntington’s disease, with each having the potential to deliver transformational therapeutic benefit for patients, the firms said. 

As per the terms, Voyager will handle R&D activities but in collaboration with Genzyme, which has the option to license several programs after initial proof-of-concept trials. Voyager will, however, retain all US rights to its lead programs in PD (VY-AADC01) and Friedreich’s ataxia (VY-FXN01), and will split US profits with Genzyme for the Huntington’s disease program (VY-HTT01). 

In return, Genzyme is paying Voyager $100 million upfront, including $65 million in cash, a $30 million equity investment in Voyager and ‘additional in-kind contributions’, as well as future potential development and sales milestones up to $745 million, plus tiered royalties on product sales. 

Sanofi cuts

Meanwhile, Sanofi has reportedly axed around 100 employees at its Boston R&D site, and plans to cease running oncology as a separate division.

Citing sources close to the situation, Bloomberg News reported that Tal Zaks, head of the Sanofi’s Global Oncology segment, is set for departure as part of the restructure.