Syncona Expands Global Leadership Position In Gene Therapy With Foundation Of New Companies

Syncona further strengthens position in gene therapy; foundation of SwanBio and Orbit Biomedical takes gene therapy group to five companies.


  • Creation of SwanBio, focused on the Central Nervous System, means Syncona’s portfolio companies now covers every tissue compartment where gene therapy has proof of concept (retina, liver, CNS).
  • Orbit Biomedical founded following the acquisition of leading surgical platform for sub-retinal delivery from Janssen Biotech, Inc. and transfer of key individuals to the Orbit Biomedical management team.
  • Commitments of $35 million (£26.2 million), including $23m (£17.2 million) for a 72 per cent fully diluted stake in SwanBio, and $12 million (£9.0 million)1 to Orbit Biomedical where Syncona owns an 80 per cent fully diluted stake.

Syncona Ltd, a leading healthcare company focused on investing in and building global leaders in life science, today announces the further development of its gene therapy group with the creation of two new companies: SwanBio and Orbit Biomedical.

Chris Hollowood, Chief Investment Officer of Syncona and leader of Syncona’s AAV gene therapy strategy, said:

“We believe that gene therapy represents a whole new way of combatting disease. Syncona has been deeply invested in gene therapy since our founding in 2012. We have sought to build a series of therapeutically focused gene therapy companies around leading clinician researchers in the three human tissue compartments where there is clinical proof of gene therapy’s impact on disease. The creation of SwanBio achieves this part of the strategy bringing the capability to address disease in the Central Nervous System alongside our existing capability in the Retina, through Nightstar and Gyroscope, and Systemically with Freeline. Gene therapy has the potential to be a very important modality for the CNS and in SwanBio we have a fantastic team that brings together gene therapy, disease biology, clinical need and patient engagement.”

“In parallel, we have sought to build leading proprietary platforms for delivery and manufacturing, since these two aspects are essential to the safe and accurate administration of high quality gene therapy products. The foundation of Orbit Biomedical and acquisition of the leading sub-retinal surgical delivery platform from Janssen Biotech, Inc., completes this second part of the strategy, and builds on Freeline’s previous acquisition of a world-leading manufacturing platform from Rentschler. In both these acquisitions we were successful in retaining the teams of key individuals responsible for each platform’s development.

“Orbit Biomedical is an exciting standalone business and an enabling acquisition for Syncona’s retinal gene therapy companies. We look forward to supporting the team as they work to set the standard for sub-retinal delivery and bring gene therapy to all patients who stand to benefit.”

Strengthening a leading gene therapy portfolio

The foundation of these two new companies underlines Syncona’s leadership position in the gene therapy space where it now owns one of the broadest, highest quality, co-ordinated set of gene therapy products, platforms and capabilities globally. These therapeutics are developed through its five group companies, each with their distinct product focus and domain expert teams that ensure high quality and rapid execution. Alongside SwanBio and Orbit Biomedical, the group is comprised of Nightstar (inherited retinal diseases), Freeline (chronic systemic disease) and Gyroscope (retinal inflammation and one of the first companies globally to move gene therapy from rare disease to highly prevalent severe diseases with no treatment options.)

Syncona led the $25 million Series A investment round in SwanBio, committing $23 million over three tranches for a 72 per cent fully diluted stake in the business. In founding Orbit Biomedical, Syncona has committed $12 million in funding for an 80 per cent fully-diluted ownership stake. Syncona is the sole institutional investors in both companies.



Syncona Ltd
Siobhan Weaver
Head of Communications and Investor Relations
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7611 2031

National media/ newswires:
Tulchan Communications
Martin Robinson / Lisa Jarrett-Kerr
Tel: +44 (0) 207 353 4200

Industry and trade media:
Consilium Strategic Communications
Amber Fennell/ Suki Virji/ Chris Welsh
Tel: +44 (0)20 3709 5700

Copies of this press release and other corporate information can be found on the company website at:

About Syncona

Syncona is a leading FTSE250 healthcare company focussed on investing in and building global leaders in life science. Our vision is to deliver transformational treatments to patients in truly innovative areas of healthcare while generating superior returns for shareholders. Our current investment portfolio consists of seven high quality companies in life science and a leading range of fund investments.

We seek to partner with the best, brightest and most ambitious minds in science to build globally competitive businesses. We are established leaders in gene therapy, cell therapy and advanced diagnostics, and focus on delivering dramatic efficacy for patients in areas of high unmet need.

Our market leading funds portfolio seeks to generate superior returns by investing in long only and alternative investment funds. This represents a productively deployed evergreen funding base which enables us to take a long term approach to investing in life sciences as we target the best new opportunities and support our existing portfolio companies to grow and succeed.

Syncona is aligned with two of the premium charitable funders in UK science, the Wellcome Trust, original founder of Syncona, and Cancer Research UK, both of which are significant shareholders in our business. We make a donation of 0.3% of Net Asset Value to a range of charities each year.

About Orbit Biomedical

Orbit Biomedical has the potential to transform the accuracy, safety and consistency of delivering curative therapeutics, including gene therapies, enabling enhanced benefits to patients. The Company’s current focus is delivery to the sub-retinal space for the treatment of retinal disease. Orbit Biomedical’s unique surgical system and training platform is the product of many years’ work within Janssen Biotech, Inc; culminating in clinical data suggesting important advantages of the procedure over standard subretinal injection techniques. Orbit Biomedical’s mission is to revolutionize gene and cell therapy treatment by setting a new standard for precise, targeted surgical delivery. Located in Philadelphia, Orbit Biomedical was founded in 2018 by Syncona and four senior Janssen Biotech, Inc executives who previously led the development of the platform technology and associated clinician education.

About SwanBio

SwanBio Therapeutics is a gene therapy company focused on the development and commercialisation of genetically defined therapies for the treatment of neurological disorders. The Company, which is located in Boston and Philadelphia, is building on its proprietary delivery and manufacturing know-how to enable it to deliver its products commercially which it will leverage for each of its pipeline products. The business is based on work by Florian Eichler, a founder of SwanBio and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Assistant in Neurology, Director of the Leukodystrophy Clinic, and Director of the Center for Rare Neurological Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. Its lead programme is in development for a monogenic neurodegenerative condition impacting approximately 1 in 17,000 people.

1 All as per exchange rates on 13 June 2018

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