BRENTFORD, UNITED KINGDOM
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) sold off the branch of its business conducting research and development on gene therapies for rare diseases. Orchard Therapeutics, another company in that line of business, acquired the assets in exchange for giving GSK a 20% stake in the company. The treatments in question are surefire cures that may only treat a couple dozen people a year. One of GSK’s treatments involved in the deal was Strimvelis, a cure for “bubble boy” disease, a condition in which children are born so immune-deficient, they live a short life in a plastic bubble. GSK chose to hand off commercialization of the drug because one treatment could cost as much as $665,000; and the process was complex, requiring bone marrow extraction and return. GSK has been criticized for putting money before saving lives, but gene therapies are advancing so fast these days, as soon as something is commercialized, there will likely be a new and improved version on its heels. Orchard Therapeutics is, in fact, developing one such successor drug for Strimvelis.