Firm with UI ties secures capital commitment
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A gene-therapy company created in part from research at the University of Iowa has secured $50 million to advance its lead programs through clinical development.
Spark Therapeutics, LLC landed the capital commitment from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the company announced. The money will go to moving gene-therapy clinical research forward, with the goal of solving health problems by identifying specific genetic targets in patients and delivering effective treatments.
Spark, based in Philadelphia, has long ties to the UI. Beverly Davidson, the Roy J. Carver Chair in Biomedical Research and professor of medicine, neurology, physiology and biophysics at the UI, is a scientific co-founder and advisor to the firm. Her work in gene-therapy research, along with that of Katherine High, director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, had enough commercial appeal to make a company viable.
The UI Research Foundation (UI RF) worked with the firm on licensing opportunities and intellectual property issues. The University of Pennsylvania, along with CHOP, also worked with the firm on licensing intellectual property.
“We worked closely with Spark as they began planning the company,” explains UI RF executive director Zev Sunleaf, “because a portion of the portfolio that Spark is moving forward includes over 12 years of intellectual property and over 15 years of research and work in gene therapy in the area of central nervous system disorders.”
“During the ramp up of fundraising, CHOP funded ongoing preclinical research at the UI in order to continue momentum and development,” Sunleaf adds.
The UI currently has a sponsored research agreement with the firm. Spark has an exclusive license to a large portfolio of intellectual property in capitalizing on gene therapy to treat various central nervous system disorders, according to Sunleaf.