Oxford Biomedica to win Department of Health gene funding

Oxford spinout Oxford Biomedica was yesterday awarded £0.5 million by the Department of Health to conduct the first British gene therapy haemophilia trial.

The Health Secretary, John Reid, announced yesterday the successful bidders for £4m funding for research into gene therapy. Oxford BioMedica was awarded £0.5 million to develop its proprietary LentiVector® technology for use in the treatment of single gene inherited disorders. The focus of the work is to be haemophilia A.

Haemophilia A is a condition caused by a defective gene involved in the mechanism for forming blood clots. The errors in the gene mean that blood does not clot properly, causing haemophiliacs to bleed uncontrollably. About 400,000 people are affected, and are currently treated with injections of blood-clotting agent about three times a month.

The LentiVector technology is a method of delivering gene therapy using harmless viruses. Three years ago Biomedica, a biopharmaceutical company specialising in the development of novel gene-based therapeutics with a focus on the areas of oncology and neurotherapy,initiated a programme to develop a LentiVector gene delivery system carrying the gene crucial to blood clotting – and solved several problems that had been encountered by others attempting gene therapy for haemophilia. However, since haemophilia falls outside of the company's therapeutic focus of cancer and neurotherapy, the programme has received minimal internal resources. The new money from the Department of Health will enable the company to move the haemophilia programme forward.

Following successful preclinical studies, Oxford BioMedica intends to progress clinical development in collaboration with the Oxford Haemophilia Centre at the Churchill Hospital under the guidance of Dr Paul Giangrande and Dr David Keeling.

Professor Alan Kingsman, Oxford BioMedica's Chief Executive, said: 'We are pleased to see the Department of Health implementing the government's decision to place gene-based medicine in the mainstream of healthcare in the UK. We are also delighted to be the only company selected to contribute to this initiative and to aid in the process of bringing products to the market that will directly benefit patients with genetic diseases.'

Oxford BioMedica was established in 1995 as a spin out from Oxford University, and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The Department of Health also awarded £1.6m of the gene therapy funding to a consortium including Oxford researchers which is tackling muscular dystrophy. Read more here.

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