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Gene Replacement

Gene replacement is RSRT’s lead strategy and closest to clinical trial.

RSRT-Led Gene Therapy Consortium

RSRT started funding gene replacement efforts in 2010, at a time when gene therapy for neurological disorders was still considered science fiction. Encouraging data led to the launch of the RSRT-funded Gene Therapy Consortium in 2014. The Consortium included gene therapists Dr. Brian Kaspar, PhD, and Dr. Steve Gray, PhD, and MECP2 experts Dr. Stuart Cobb, PhD, and Dr. Gail Mandel, PhD.

The Consortium worked through challenges involving vector optimization (the Trojan horse that delivers the gene into a cell), gene construct optimization (what you package into the vector), dosage, and the routes of administration into the body.

The data generated by the Consortium exceeded our expectations. The magnitude of improvement seen in Rett mouse models treated with gene replacement is much greater than that of any drug tested to date and suggests that significant benefit may be achieved in people.

Importantly, the Gene Therapy Consortium incubated two industry programs and an academic program.

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Gene Replacement Programs

RSRT has invested more than $10 million in gene replacement. RSRT-driven collaborations, initiatives, and investments have helped to generate all of the following gene therapy programs.

Taysha Gene Therapies

Taysha Gene Therapies is pursuing a MECP2 gene replacement program, called TSHA-102. This gene replacement program is designed to deliver a shortened version of the MECP2 gene (mini-gene) as well as a novel platform technology called miRARE, which should control the level of MECP2 expression. The mini-gene was developed by Sir Professor Adrian Bird and funded by RSRT as part of the MECP2 Consortium. The miRARE platform was developed by Dr. Steve Gray and funded by RSRT as part of our Gene Therapy Consortium. Taysha recently announced they have recevied regulatory approval from Health Canada to being a clinical trial. This first trial will in individuals with Rett 18 years of age and older.

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Neurogene

Neurogene was launched in 2018 and in 2022 announced the addition of a Rett syndrome gene replacement program, NGN-401, to their company pipeline. NGN-401 delivers a full-length MECP2 gene with a novel technology, called EXACT, that allows the amount of protein made by the gene to be regulated in order to avoid high levels. NGN-401 is expected to be administered via injection into the ventricles of the brain. This type of injection is called ICV (short for intracerebroventricular).

This gene replacement program was developed by Dr. Stuart Cobb with almost $3 million of funding from RSRT. Dr. Cobb was part of our Gene Therapy Consortium, which launched in 2014.

University of Pennsylvania
Gene Therapy Program

The Gene Therapy Program, the largest academic gene therapy program in the world, is led by pioneer gene therapist Dr. James Wilson, MD, PhD. Dr. Wilson has played a pivotal role in the renaissance that this field is currently experiencing. He’s made a number of seminal discoveries, including the identification and development of the AAV9 vector, the gold standard for delivery to the brain.

One of Dr. Wilson’s overarching objectives is to improve delivery of genes to the brain, which is extremely relevant to Rett syndrome.

Joseph Anderson

At the end of 2021, RSRT approved funding to Joseph Anderson, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, for a novel approach to treating Rett. The approach involves extracting a particular type of cells found in blood and bone marrow called hematopoietic stem cells. The stem cells are then filled with MECP2 genes, encapsulated in a lentivirus, and reintroduced into the body through an intravenous infusion. Some of the stem cells will find their way to the brain, where they will act as factories that continuously supply the MECP2 protein.

This approach, championed by Anderson, has had success in Angelman syndrome animal models, and a clinical trial for Angelman syndrome is now being planned. Should this approach turn out to be feasible for Rett, it would open the door to a novel approach that eliminates some of the issues encountered with AAV therapies.