Bayer Expands Gene Therapy Portfolio With AskBio

Long-standing German pharma giant Bayer has turned its sights towards North Carolina. Research Triangle Park-based Asklepios BioPharmaceutical, also known as AskBio, has recently caught Bayer’s interest with its gene therapy treatment options for Parkinson’s disease and congestive heart failure, among other conditions.

AskBio produces an adeno-associated virus (AAV) platform of gene therapy. Founder Jude Samulski is considered a pioneer in the field and created the company in 2001 while working as a research scientist at the University of North Carolina. AskBio’s AAV platform now also includes a high-yield cell line. The company has worked with Columbus Venture partners to ramp up their manufacturing to keep with the intense demand for gene therapy.

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Bayer recently acquired AskBio for $2 billion up front, with the understanding that it could pay up to $2 billion in additional funds if the company hits a certain set of milestones. AskBio currently holds over 500 patents in AAV production, self-complementary DNA, chimeric vectors, and other related processes.

Pfizer and Takeda are just some of the big names that currently use AskBio’s products. Under the agreement with Bayer, AskBio will remain its own company, but Bayer will own full rights to their pipeline of therapies for congestive heart failure, Pompe disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other central nervous system, metabolic, and cardiovascular ailments.

“Our innovation in capsid re-engineering and promoter design, coupled with our scaled manufacturing processes, gives us the tools to provide gene therapy solutions to more people suffering from a wider spectrum of disease that is not being adequately treated today,” said Samulski.

The acquisition not only boosts Bayer’s gene therapy portfolio but allows for a strategic foundation to be laid for future AAV-based partnerships. Bayer hopes the deal will secure their place at the forefront of gene therapy, enabling them to both cure and prevent diseases born of genetic abnormalities.

In preparation for the increased workload and production the acquisition will promote, AskBio is hiring across the board, and rapidly expanding its small, North Carolina facility. The company currently employs over 300 people, and that number will soon increase as positions open up on the lab side as well as in finance and human resources.