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Voyager Inks CNS Alliance with Genzyme

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NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Voyager Therapeutics today announced that it has partnered with Genzyme to co-develop a number of its central nervous system disorder programs as part of a deal that includes a $100 million upfront commitment from Genzyme.

Under the arrangement, Genzyme will collaborate with Voyager on its Phase Ib Parkinson's disease program and its preclinical Friedreich's ataxia program, both of which involve the replacement of faulty genes with functioning versions via adeno-associated viral vectors.

Also included is Voyager's preclinical Huntington's disease program, for which the company is exploring various gene-silencing approaches including RNAi. Should RNAi be selected as the therapeutic modality for this indication, it would mark the latest addition to Genzyme's RNAi portfolio, which includes drug candidates against a variety of diseases through an alliance with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.

Voyager's effort to develop an RNAi-based treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, however, is not part of the Genzyme alliance.

"The philosophy of this collaboration is to partner on a number of programs," Voyager President and CEO Steven Paul told GenomeWeb. "But Genzyme appreciates the importance of us having some of our own programs and being able to work unencumbered in certain areas."

Under the terms of the agreement, Genzyme will have the option to license the rights to the Parkinson's, Friedreich's ataxia, and Huntington's programs outside of the US after initial proof-of-concept clinical studies.

Voyager will retain the US rights to all the programs, but split any US profits from the Huntington's program with Genzyme.

In exchange, Genzyme will provide Voyager $65 million in cash and take a $30 million equity stake. Voyager said it is eligible to receive future development and sales milestones of up to $745 million, as well as tiered royalty payments.

Voyager was founded about a year ago with a $45 million investment from venture capital firm Third Rock Ventures. The company's founders include University of Massachusetts Medical School researcher Phillip Zamore, who co-founded Alnylam, and Stanford University's Mark Kay, who co-founded expressed RNAi startup Avocel.

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