Skip to main content
  • bluebird bio Receives U.S. and European Orphan Drug Designation for Novel Gene Therapy to Treat Adrenoleukodystrophy

    June 19, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 19, 2012 — bluebird bio, a leader in the development of innovative gene therapies for severe genetic disorders, announced today that both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have granted an orphan drug designation to its investigational gene therapy product for the treatment of adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). The product consists of the patient’s own CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells transduced with bluebird bio’s lentiviral vector, Lenti-D, encoding the human ABCD1 cDNA. Based on promising early clinical proof of concept results, bluebird bio plans to initiate a Phase 2/3 clinical study in childhood cerebral ALD in both the United States and Europe in 2013. “Receiving orphan drug designation is a positive step forward in our efforts to bring hope to ALD patients and their families,” said David Davidson, M.D., chief medical officer of bluebird bio. “We believe our lentiviral technology has the potential to be a one-time transformative therapy for patients suffering from rare genetic disorders like ALD for whom there are limited treatment options. bluebird is committed to advancing the clinical and commercial development of our gene therapy platform because of the dramatic benefit it may have on the lives of patients.” Orphan drug designation, which is intended to facilitate drug development for rare diseases, provides substantial benefits to the sponsor, including the potential for funding for certain clinical studies, study-design assistance, and several years of market exclusivity for the product upon regulatory approval.   About ALD   Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is a rare X-linked, inherited neurological disorder that, in its most severe form, causes damage to the myelin sheath (an insulating layer of membranes that surrounds nerve cells in the brain) and progressive dysfunction of the adrenal glands. Also known as Lorenzo’s Oil disease, ALD is estimated to affect one in every 21,000 boys worldwide. In the childhood cerebral form (CCALD), symptoms usually occur between the ages of 4 and 10. Boys afflicted with this form of ALD develop normally until the onset of symptoms. The symptoms of this disorder often progress rapidly and, in a matter of years, can lead to a vegetative state and, ultimately, death. Current treatment options are limited to allogeneic stem cell transplantation when there is an appropriate donor. Allogeneic transplants carry a significant risk of serious morbidity and death.   About bluebird bio’s CCALD Product Development   bluebird bio’s CCALD product program has the potential to halt the progression of CCALD by providing a functional ABCD1 gene to the patient’s own stem cells. These stem cells proliferate, and some of the progeny cells travel to the brain where they become microglial cells incorporating the corrective gene. Data from the first clinical study treating X-linked CCALD patients with the company’s lentiviral gene therapy product demonstrated continued stable expression of the transgene and the corresponding ABCD-1 protein for over four years in two CCALD patients, resulting in prolonged disease stabilization. bluebird bio plans to initiate a Phase 2/3 clinical study in CCALD in both the United States and Europe in 2013.   About bluebird bio   bluebird bio is developing innovative gene therapies for severe genetic disorders. At the heart of bluebird bio’s product creation efforts is its broadly applicable gene therapy platform for the development of novel treatments for diseases with few or no clinical options. The company’s novel approach uses stem cells harvested from the patient’s own bone marrow into which a healthy version of the disease causing gene is inserted. bluebird bio’s approach represents a true paradigm shift in the treatment of severe genetic diseases by eliminating the potential complications associated with donor cell transplantation and presenting a one-time potentially transformative therapy using a patient’s own stem cells. bluebird bio has two later stage clinical products in development for childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy (CCALD) and beta-thalassemia/sickle cell anemia. Led by a world-class team, bluebird bio is privately held and backed by top-tier life sciences investors, including Third Rock Ventures, TVM Capital, ARCH Venture Partners, Forbion Capital Partners, Easton Capital and Genzyme Ventures. Its operations are located in Cambridge, Mass. and Paris, France. For more information, please visit ###