Children's Hospital of Philadelphia spinoff investment pays off big with Roche acquisition

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was among the winners when pharmaceutical giant Roche announced plans this week to acquire gene therapy company Spark Therapeutics for $4.8 billion.

SEC filings show the CHOP Foundation had ownership of nearly 4 million shares, or about 11%, of the Philadelphia-based Spark. With the all-cash deal of $114.50 a share, that works out to more than a $456 million payoff for the foundation. As Bloomberg reports, that is in addition to an estimated $285 million the foundation made in earlier share sales.

It turned out to be a particularly lucrative return on what was an original investment of $50 million by the CHOP Foundation. 

Spark spun out of CHOP in 2013 around gene therapy technology aimed at treating a rare and inherited form of blindness that affects children. It has a pipeline of nine investigational gene therapies, including three gene therapies in clinical trials.

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SEC filings show CHOP has had ongoing collaborations with Spark including licensing, research and clinical trial agreements. Officials say Spark Therapeutics will continue its operations in Philadelphia as an independent company within the Roche Group.

The deal is also expected to bring big payouts to several officials affiliated with CHOP.

Spark's leadership includes CEO and Co-Founder Jeffrey D. Marrazzo, who formerly served as an independent consultant to CHOP, and Spark's President Katherine High, whose studies at CHOP established the first proof of principle of gene therapy for hemophilia in preclinical models, owned 662,613 and 370,021 shares in the company, respectively.

Board chairman Steven M. Altschuler, M.D., the former CEO of CHOP and its foundation, owned 64,711 shares.