March 20, 2019 / 3:06 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Pfizer buys stake in French gene therapy firm Vivet

(Adds background on gene therapy space, Pfizer)

March 20 (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc said on Wednesday it acquired a 15 percent stake in Vivet Therapeutics, as well as an exclusive option to fully acquire it, a deal that will give it access to the French company's experimental gene therapy for a rare genetic disorder called Wilson disease.

Pfizer has paid Vivet about $51 million upfront and may pay up to $635.8 million in clinical, regulatory milestone payments and to exercise the option to buy the whole company.

Pfizer already has collaboration agreements with gene therapy companies including Spark Therapeutics and Sangamo Therapeutics to target conditions like hemophilia and certain neurodegenerative disorders.

Pfizer is one of several large pharmaceutical companies that has done deals to try to tap the potential for gene therapies to dramatically improve or even cure disease. Analysts expect the companies to charge more than $1 million for these therapies.

Last month, Swiss drugmaker Roche AG agreed to buy Spark Therapeutics, which developed the only approved gene therapy on the U.S. market, for $4.3 billion.

The FDA is also expected to decide on whether to approve a gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy from Novartis AG later this year.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, Vivet and Pfizer said Pfizer can exercise its option to acquire all of Vivet following its delivery of certain data from an early-stage clinical trial for its VTX-801, an experimental treatment for Wilson disease.

Wilson disease, which can be life-threatening, is a rare inherited disorder that causes copper to accumulate in the liver, brain and other vital organs. (Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru;' Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Maju Samuel)

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