Inotek announces Merger with gene therapy startup Rocket Pharma

Inotek Pharmaceutical Corp. (NASDAQ: ITEK) announced on Wednesday its merger with startup company Rocket Pharma. Inotek, the Massachusetts based pharmaceutical company, will now move and join Rocket in New York City.

Inotek and Rocket, under the agreement, will both become Rocket Pharmaceuticals. The two companies will now focus on developing and advancing its pipeline of gene therapies based on lentiviral virus (LVV) and adeno-associated virus (AVV) gene therapy platforms, along with treating deadly rare diseases, according to the statement.

Rocket’s lentiviral based platforms are aimed to enable transduction of patients’ stem cells and to be able to optimally allow gene correction and fix disorders and functions pertaining to the diseases. Rocket’s adeno-associated platform involves an injection of protein into the body to return the patient to a healthy state.

Among Rockets therapy programs, most are in preclinical phases such as its Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency-1 (LAD-1) and Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKD) therapies. Rocket’s  Fanconi Anemia (FA) therapy is now in clinical phase, but won’t begin clinical testing until 2018.

“Rocket is a leader in developing first-in-class gene therapies for patients with rare genetic diseases with complex and challenging treatment options, such as bone marrow and organ transplants,” said David P. Southwell, President and CEO of Inotek, “The proposed transaction will provide significant and immediate value to accelerate the development of Rocket’s five distinct programs.”

“Our vision is to create a fully-integrated platform gene therapy company with a portfolio of distinct treatments for devastating genetic diseases,” said Gaurav Shah, CEO of Rocket. “FA, LAD-1 and PKD are near term opportunities in rare bone marrow-derived disorders. The AAV-based approach, while earlier, will target treatment of a broader range of challenging diseases.”

Previously, Inotek had released less than expected results for MATrX-1, the company’s phase 3 trial of trabodenoson for treatment for glaucoma and ocular hypertension, which forced the company to backtrack and redevelop for the rest of the year. It is evident that Inotek’s plan for a merger comes due to its previous trials’ results.

Under the terms of the agreement, Rocket shareholders will receive shares of Inotek common shares in a private placement. Rocket shareholders will own 81 percent of the combined company and Inotek shareholders will own 19 percent of the combined company. The merger is expected to close during the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year.

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