Bayer boosts its gene therapy platform

San Sebastian, Spain. October 2020- The Basque company Viralgen, the first production site  in Spain dedicated to the production of adeno-associated (AAV) viral vectors, has made public today the agreement that has  been reached with the life science company Bayer for the acquisition of their production platform.

The framework of the deal is Bayer’s recent announcement to acquire the north American biotechnological company AskBio, founder and owner of 50% of Viralgen, for a sum  of USD 4 billion (USD 2 billion upfront and up to USD 2 billion in success-based milestone payments). In the same operation, Bayer has  committed to acquiring the remaining 50% of Viralgen, currently owned by co-founder Columbus Venture Partners, within 30 days of closing of the AskBio deal. The acquisition is beneficial for the goals of both companies, as well as for patients, investors, collaborators, and coworkers. Viralgen will continue to operate independently, as it has  until now, and will retain its corporate identity, as well as the managing team and the professional team who work at the plant of the Parque Científico y Tecnológico de Gipuzkoa (San Sebastián). The high qualification and experience of the Viralgen team in the development and production of gene therapies is of major importance for Bayer, since this level of knowledge and specialization is rare in industry. Viralgen’s expansion plans will continue as scheduled, with the goal to become a reference in the production of gene therapies for multiple clients around the world.

The acquisition of Viralgen boosts Bayer’s gene therapy platform and its potential to offer urgently needed treatments to patients in areas of unmet medical need. Bayer adds to its portfolio an industry-leading AAV gene therapy platform with proven efficacy across therapeutic areas. AskBio’s and Viralgen’s exclusive Pro10™ technology, the most advanced in industry and unique in Europe,  enables efficient production of new products at scale, making  gene therapy treatments available to a wider number of people. Bayer’s newly established CGT unit will bundle Bayer’s activities in this area moving forward in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for the participating partners within the Bayer organization.

Javier Garcia Cogorro, CEO of Viralgen, who informed the media today about the acquisition, is very positive about the operation. “It is great news for both companies, for their clients, investors, and coworkers. And also, for people who suffer from  currently uncurable diseases and for whom gene therapy means hope” he says. “It is as well good news for San Sebastian, given that with this deal and with Bayer’s support, the city will gain international visibility and consolidates as an innovation hub for biotechnology and Life Sciences in Europe and in the world”.

Wolfram Carius, Executive Vice President for Cell & Gene Therapies at Bayer, has  highlighted the importance and impact of Viralgen on the economies of the Basque Country and of Spain, and he subscribes to the commitment of Viralgen to the society where it resides. “Viralgen will play a key role in the development of Bayer’s emerging CGT business, and it [Viralgen] will accordingly receive significant support” he says. Bayer’s Executive Vice President has  highlighted Viralgen’s experience in the development and manufacturing of gene therapies, knowledge that is not easily found in industry. “The compliance with cGMP guidelines and the quality of the final product are essential in the manufacturing process in order to guarantee the safety and efficacy of these very specialized products. Here Viralgen brings key expertise”. He has  also highlighted the “valuable support that Viralgen has  received from  public institutions and from the Basque Government for the further development of Viralgen’s key capabilities”, and has  committed to continue to collaborate with the regional authorities in the field of biotechnology, in order to make  of Viralgen “an even  more potent company in the international sector”.

About Viralgen

Founded in 2017 in the Gipuzkoa Science and Technology Park (San Sebastián), by the North American pharmaceutical company AskBio and the Columbus Venture Partners venture capital management company, Viralgen is a biotechnology company with unique characteristics in the world. It develops and manufactures adeno-associated vectors (AAV) for clinical trials and for the large-scale production of new medical treatments for the growing market for gene therapies. The easy scalability of its Pro10 ™ technology has  made Viralgen the only non-US  company to participate in the consortium led by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Brigham Hospital for research and development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Viralgen will face the challenge of producing the vaccine on an industrial scale for Europe and other geographical areas. With the construction of a second plant that will come into operation in 2021, Viralgen is preparing to respond to the challenge of manufacturing on an industrial scale the products that today are in different phases of clinical trials and that will be commercialized. www.viralgenvc.com

About Bayer

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the life science fields of health care and nutrition. Its products and services are designed to benefit people by supporting efforts to overcome the major challenges presented by a growing and aging global population. At the same time, the Group aims to increase its earning power and create value through innovation and growth. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development, and the Bayer brand stands for trust, reliability and quality throughout the world. In fiscal 2019, the Group employed around 104,000 people and had sales of 43.5 billion euros. Capital expenditures amounted to 2.9 billion euros, R&D expenses to 5.3 billion euros. For more information, go to www.bayer.com