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Pfizer picks up 15% stake in French gene therapy company Vivet for €45M upfront

Pfizer Inc. acquired a 15% stake in privately held gene therapy company Vivet Therapeutics and also secured an exclusive option to buy all outstanding shares.

New York-based Pfizer and Paris-based Vivet will collaborate to develop the French company's gene therapy candidate VTX-801 to treat Wilson disease. Vivet is also advancing liver-directed gene therapy programs for progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis — a disorder that causes progressive liver disease leading to the organ's failure.

Wilson disease is a rare, potentially life-threatening genetic disease caused by an excess of copper in the liver and other parts of the body. No new treatment for the disease has been approved in decades, while existing therapies are said to have sub-optimal efficacy or significant side effects for patients. Another European company, Wilson Therapeutics AB (publ), which was acquired by Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2018, is in the process of developing a rival gene therapy for the disease.

Under the agreement, Pfizer paid about €45 million upfront and may pay up to €560 million, which includes the option to buy all shares and other clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones.

Pfizer can exercise its option if Vivet's phase 1/2 trial for VTX-801 achieves certain results.

Pfizer's vice president of worldwide business development, Monika Vnuk, will join Vivet's board as part of the transaction.

Other terms of the transaction were not disclosed.