Targeted Genetics, Re-invented as AmpliPhi, Bets on Anti-Bacterials, Moves HQ to London
Targeted Genetics has been a shell of its former self for a couple years now, but today it’s officially no longer the same old Targeted Genetics.
The Seattle-based company, a one-time trailblazer in the field of gene therapy, said today it has made a slew of changes to its business, including ditching the old name in favor of a new one—AmpliPhi Biosciences (pronounced like the thing that cranks up the sound coming from a guitar).
The re-invented company, traded on the Pink Sheets, is now headquartered out of London, the home of new CEO Edward Cappabianca. AmpliPhi is the creation of the merger of Targeted Genetics and London-based Biocontrol—although the emphasis in today’s release is focused on what Biocontrol brought to the table. The new company is going to focus on bacteriophage therapies, designed to fight stubborn antibiotic-resistant bugs like Pseudomonas aeruginosa. AmpliPhi says it has nailed down research grants for part of its drug development programs, including support from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of America.
The new entity is still holding onto some old Targeted Genetics intellectual property, and it stands to collect royalties if any partners like Amsterdam Molecular Therapeutics, San Diego-based Celladon and Cambridge, MA-based Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) are able to create new drugs that use Targeted’s techniques for delivering specific gene therapies where they need to go in cells.
Targeted Genetics had been struggling to stay afloat for two years now, as it ran out of cash and was unable to keep raising more as investors lost interest in the once highflying field of gene therapy in the 1990s. It burned through more than $315 million in investor capital during its 19-year history, leaving many investors with holdings that were basically worthless. The company did, however, leave a profound mark on the Seattle biotech community as a training ground for a generation of scientific and managerial talent. Founder and longtime CEO H. Stewart Parker recently landed a new gig as the CEO of the Infectious Disease Research Institute, bringing her business experience to the prolific global health nonprofit organization.
I’ve personally covered Targeted Genetics for almost 10 years now, and seen it experience a few highs, like the time its gene therapy showed an effect against a congenital form of blindness. There were also plenty of lows, like the time a clinical trial showed its most advanced gene therapy failed to help patients with cystic fibrosis, and when a patient died in a rheumatoid arthritis trial, raising suspicion that Targeted’s therapy was responsible (ultimately, it wasn’t).
AmpliPhi Biosciences will retain a Seattle office focusing on finance, business development, investor relations, and capitalizing on the remaining gene therapy assets, says David Poston, the longtime finance chief for Targeted Genetics. Former CEO Susan Robinson “is pursuing other Seattle-based biotech projects, which may include forming her own company,” Poston says. The new company strategy, he says, amount to “exciting times, indeed.”
We don’t have a London bureau so this will probably be my last post about the company now known as AmpliPhi.