Biotechnology company Voyager Therapeutics has signed a strategic collaboration and capsid license agreement, worth $100m upfront, with Novartis Pharma to advance the development of novel gene therapies for genetic disorders.

Voyager and Novartis Pharma, a division of Swiss drug maker Novartis, will work on potential gene therapies for Huntington’s disease (HD) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

The US-based biotechnology firm will grant Novartis a target-exclusive licence to access its TRACER capsids and other intellectual property for the relevant diseases.

TRACER platform is an RNA-based screening platform that allows rapid discovery of AAV capsids with robust penetration of the blood-brain barrier and enhanced central nervous system (CNS) tropism in multiple species.

In addition, both firms will advance a preclinical gene therapy candidate for Huntington’s disease (HD).

Voyager CEO Alfred Sandrock said: “Combining the proven capabilities of Novartis in gene therapy development and commercialisation with Voyager’s next-generation TRACER capsids and payloads could enable the advancement of important new therapies for patients.

“In addition, the consideration Voyager will receive from this collaboration will strengthen our balance sheet and extend our runway into mid-2026.”

Under the agreement, Novartis will pay Voyager $100m which includes a $20m purchase of newly issued equity in the latter.

The biotechnology company is also eligible to get up to $1.2bn in preclinical, development, regulatory and sales milestones.

Additionally, the firm will receive tiered royalties on international net sales of products based on the Voyager’s TRACER capsids.

Furthermore, the Swiss drug maker will gain target-exclusive access to Voyager’s TRACER capsids related to SMA for the duration of the deal and will oversee all development and commercialisation.

For the HD candidate, Voyager would advance the pre-clinical development and Novartis will be responsible for all clinical studies and marketing activities.

Novartis biomedical research president Fiona Marshall said: “We believe Voyager’s TRACER capsids hold promise for enabling next-generation gene therapies for diseases of the central nervous system, aligning well with our deep neuroscience expertise and gene therapy leadership at Novartis.”

Previously, the Swiss firm exercised options to license novel capsids generated from the TRACER platform for use in gene therapy programmes against two undisclosed neurological disease targets.