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Voyager Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: VYGR), a clinical-stage gene therapy company focused on developing life-changing treatments for serious neurological diseases, today announced key leadership transitions and a strategic shift towards a refocused pipeline and increased investment in its innovative, next-generation AAV capsid platform, TRACER (Tropism Redirection of AAV by Cell-type-specific Expression of RNA). The Company expects its TRACER technology platform to enable the development of new gene therapy candidates for serious neurological diseases that have been difficult to treat with conventional approaches.
Michael Higgins, Chairman of the Board of Directors, will assume the role of Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Glenn Pierce, MD, Ph.D., Director of the Board of Trustees, will assume the role of Interim Scientific Director (CSO) . Mr. Higgins succeeds André Turenne, who has decided to step down as President and CEO and Director of the Board, as of early June, to seize new opportunities. Mr. Turenne will support the company as an advisor as the company seeks a permanent CEO. Voyager also announced that Omar Khwaja, MD, Ph.D., has stepped down as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Chief Research and Development Officer, effective the end of May. Dr Khwaja will return to Europe to seize a new opportunity for scientific and clinical leadership. Maria Lopez-Bresnahan, MD, SVP of Translational Medicine and Clinical Development, will continue to lead the Company’s clinical development programs, including the Company’s Huntington’s disease program.
“On behalf of the entire Board, I would like to thank André and Omar for their significant and dedicated contributions to society. We wish them every success in their next endeavors, ”said Michael Higgins, new CEO.
“I am proud of our collective accomplishments, particularly in the development of Voyager platform technology and the progress made in transitioning the VY-HTT01 into clinical studies. I have great confidence in the exceptional Voyager team and wish them the best of luck in their important work of developing new treatments for serious neurological diseases, ”said Mr. Turenne. “It has been a privilege to be a part of Voyager, and I look forward to the company’s continued progress towards providing solutions to patients in need.”
Mr. Higgins added, “This is a time of transformation for Voyager. We believe that our TRACER technology platform has the potential to generate new capsids that will enable the treatment of a wide range of diseases that today cannot be treated safely and effectively with current AAV administration. . We believe the new capsids will enable Voyager to create highly differentiated next-generation AAV gene therapies for serious neurological diseases and to create licensing and partnership opportunities both inside and outside the company. neurological space. We anticipate an eventful year ahead with the launch of our planned Phase 1/2 clinical trial for VY-HTT01 for Huntington’s disease, the expected advancement of our earlier stage pipeline programs fueled by our new capsids, an investment additional in TRACER and other vector engineering technologies. , as well as potential strategic partnerships and licensing agreements. “
“Voyager has made tremendous progress in identifying innovative gene therapy approaches for serious neurological diseases, including the ability to deliver various therapeutic payloads directly to targeted areas of the brain,” said Dr. Khwaja. “I am particularly excited by the possibilities created by the TRACER platform and by the appointment of Glenn Pierce, a widely respected expert in the development of gene therapy, to lead the Voyager team of then world-class scientists and clinicians. that they are advancing these technologies and programs into the clinic. “
At the recent ASGCT meeting, the company presented key data in non-human primates (NHPs) demonstrating that one of its new capsids, 9P801, after intravenous administration, resulted in more than 1000-fold or greater expression of the transgene in the brain and 100-fold higher expression of the transgene in the brain. spinal cord, compared to AAV9. The data showed that the company’s new capsid variants efficiently penetrate the blood-brain barrier and allow for widespread biodistribution and transduction of several regions of the brain, including the cortex, thalamus, striatum, cerebellum, brainstem. and the spinal cord. These results are from the first of many libraries examined in NHPs, and the Company is rapidly processing further NHP campaigns from AAV9 and other parental capsids.
The company also recently announced The IND has approved VY-HTT01, its gene therapy candidate for the treatment of Huntington’s disease, and has confirmed its intention to continue VYTAL, its planned Phase 1/2 clinical trial, in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Incoming interim leadership
Michael Higgins has served on Voyager’s board of directors since July 2015 and has been its chairman since June 2019. He is also chairman of the board of directors of Pulmatrix and a member of the board of directors of Genocea Biosciences, Nocion Therapeutics, Camp4 Therapeutics and Sea Pharmaceuticals. Previously, Michael was Entrepreneur in Residence at Polaris Partners, Senior Vice President and COO of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals and held various executive roles at Genzyme. Michael holds a BS from Cornell University and an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College.
Glenn Pierce, MD, Ph.D., has been a member of the Board of Directors since January 2017. He is Entrepreneur in Residence at Third Rock Ventures. At Third Rock Ventures, he co-founded Ambys Medicines and serves as Interim Medical Director. Glenn previously held several positions at Biogen, most recently as Chief Medical Officer heading the Hematology, Cell and Gene Therapies division. Prior to Biogen, he worked in small and large public and private biopharmaceutical companies including Bayer, Inspiration, Avigen, Selective Genetics and Amgen in the areas of tissue regeneration and hematology. Glenn is the co-author of over 150 scientific papers and has received over 15 patents. He currently sits on the boards of Global Blood Therapeutics and the World Federation of Hemophilia as Vice President, Medical. Dr. Pierce received a medical doctorate and a doctorate. in Immunology, both from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and completed postgraduate training in pathology and hematology research at Washington University in St. Louis.
The board of directors of the company has started a research process to identify a permanent CEO and a scientific director.