Novartis buys Gyroscope for $1.5 bln to add new retinal gene therapy

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Swiss drugmaker Novartis' logo is seen at the company's plant in the northern Swiss town of Stein, Switzerland October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

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  • Shares of Gyroscope parent rise as much as 12.2% in London
  • Novartis gets access to Gyroscope's gene therapy for geographic atrophy
  • London-listed Syncona to receive royalties

Dec 22 (Reuters) - Novartis (NOVN.S) is buying Gyroscope Therapeutics for up to $1.5 billion, as the Swiss drugmaker looks to bolster its gene therapy roster with the British firm's treatment for an eye condition that can cause blindness.

Shares in Gyroscope's parent, London-listed healthcare investment firm Syncona (SYNCS.L), rose as much as 12.2% following the announcement on Wednesday, on track to record their biggest daily gain in over a year and a half.

Novartis will pay $800 million upfront and up to $700 million in additional milestone payments in the deal which will add Gyroscope's treatment, GT005, to Novartis's portfolio, the companies said.

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The experimental drug aims to treat geographic atrophy, a disease of the retina for which there is currently no treatment. The condition is an advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration, which also causes loss of vision.

Gene therapies are currently among the world's most expensive drugs. They aim to cure diseases by replacing the missing or defective version of a gene in a patient's cells with an intact gene.

Novartis' Zolgensma, a one-time treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, costs more than $2 million per patient.

It plans to fund the Gyroscope deal with cash in hand, which follows the acquisitions of Vedere Bio and Arctos Medical in the same sector. Novartis had raised $20.7 billion by selling a nearly one-third voting stake in Roche last month. read more

Syncona will also receive low single-digit royalty from future sales of Gyroscope's gene therapy, and cash proceeds of 334 million pounds ($442.9 million) for its stake in the unit.

Gyroscope had earlier in the year announced plans to launch an IPO in the United States, where it also has major operations. However it later decided to postpone the listing, citing unfavourable market conditions.

Jefferies analysts called the deal "an excellent result," particularly after Gyroscope's postponed IPO.

($1 = 0.7542 pounds)

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Reporting by Sinchita Mitra and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru, and Michael Shields in Zurich and Patricia Weiss in Frankfurt Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Devika Syamnath and David Evans

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