|AUDENTES THERAPEUTICS, INC. filed this Form 10-K on 03/13/2017|
Gene Therapy Background
Genes are composed of sequences of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, which code for proteins that perform a broad range of physiologic functions within all living organisms. DNA is a large, highly charged molecule that is difficult to transport across a cell membrane and deliver to the nucleus, where it can be transcribed and translated into protein.
Gene therapy is a therapeutic approach to treating genetic diseases caused by mutations in DNA. For gene therapy to work, an isolated gene sequence or segment of DNA needs to be delivered efficiently to the desired target tissues and cell types. The treatment involves the administration of a functional gene to produce normal protein within a patient’s cells, offering the potential for durable therapeutic benefit. To achieve these goals, scientists have designed and developed a variety of viral vectors to facilitate gene delivery in cells.
The AAV gene therapy vectors we utilize are capable of transducing a wide range of tissues with generally little or no toxicity and only mild immune response. Functionally, AAV packages a single-stranded linear DNA genome that can be engineered to contain a therapeutic gene in place of all the virus genes. AAV vectors have a well-established safety profile and do not naturally propagate by themselves in the absence of another viral infection, reducing the likelihood of inappropriate viral spread following administration. As a result, AAV vectors are emerging as the preferred delivery vehicle for gene therapy.
Our vector design strategy includes careful selection of the vector capsid (the outer protein shell) and sophisticated engineering of the vector genome (the therapeutic DNA expression cassette) to target the correct tissues and improve the potential to provide patients with meaningful and durable outcomes. Optimal selection of capsids can reduce immune responses that attenuate the function of AAV vectors, and enable more robust trafficking to the specific tissues we care about for each disease. The vector genome is composed of multiple structural elements, including the gene coding sequence and the promoter, which drives expression of the gene. We use the latest available technology to engineer the vector genome to direct the target cells to make the desired protein at the appropriate level necessary to achieve a therapeutic effect for the longest period possible. We believe the product candidates we have created offer distinct advantages for our indications due to their selectivity for target tissue types and focused expression of the desired protein.
Our Product Candidate and Target Indication Selection Criteria
Our business model is to develop and commercialize a broad portfolio of gene therapy product candidates to treat rare diseases. We use a focused set of criteria to select product candidates that we believe have the best chance of success. These criteria include: