Spark Therapeutics, a company founded in part from research conducted at the University of Iowa, recently completed an Initial Public Offering (IPO), raising gross proceeds of $185 million. The offering was up-sized from an initial filing of $88 million.

The company seeks to transform the lives of patients suffering from debilitating genetic diseases by developing one-time, life-altering treatments. Through gene therapy, the effects of a malfunctioning, disease-causing gene can be overcome by delivering a normal, functioning copy of the same gene.

Spark Therapeutics’ focus is on treating orphan diseases, which are rare diseases for which there are few new medical treatments or preventative measures available.

Spark Therapeutics’ first ophthalmic product candidate for treating rare blinding conditions is in a fully enrolled Phase 3 clinical trial and has received both breakthrough therapy and orphan product designation. Spark has a pipeline of additional product candidates that target additional blinding conditions, hematologic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases.

The technology Spark uses is based on more than two decades of gene therapy research, development, manufacturing, and clinical trials conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as an in-licensed portfolio of patents and patent applications from the University of Iowa Research Foundation that relate to a broad array of neurodegenerative diseases.

The IPO will allow Spark to continue development of several product candidates including treatments for additional inherited retinal dystrophies such as choroideremia, and a hemophilia B gene therapy product candidate being developed in collaboration with multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, Inc.

Beverly Davidson, Ph.D., formerly the Roy J. Carver Chair in Biomedical Research at the University of Iowa, is scientific co-founder of and advisor to Spark Therapeutics. 

By Anne Easker