Last week saw two major deals in neuroscience, supporting analysts’ optimism about the field, despite Pfizer’s recent exit. Indeed, the first of the two deals involved one of Pfizer’s unwanted neuroscience assets, a phase 2 candidate for the treatment of schizophrenia. Biogen will pay Pfizer $75 million upfront for the candidate, known as PF-04958242 and could be eligible to pay up to $515 million in milestones as the drug progresses in development. Later this year, Biogen plans to begin phase 2 trials of this small-molecule compound, which modulates glutamatergic signalling in the central nervous system by acting as a potentiator of the AMPA receptor.
The other standout neuroscience deal of last week was Lundbeck’s acquisition of Prexton Therapeutics, which could be worth up to ~€0.9 billion, consisting of an upfront fee of €100 million and €805 million in potential milestones. The main driver behind the deal is Prexton’s phase 2 small-molecule candidate for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, known as foligurax, which also modulates glutamate signalling, by acting as an allosteric modulator of the metabotropic glutamate receptor 4.
Wrapping up the week’s deals was a rare disease partnership worth up to ~$1.7 billion between Ionis Pharmaceuticals and its affiliate Akcea Therapeutics. Ionis exclusively licenced two of its antisense drug candidates, inotersen and IONIS-TTR-LRx, to Akcea for an upfront payment of ~$150 million, with more than $1 billion to potentially be paid in milestones to Ionis. In both the EU and US, inotersen—which reduces the production of a protein known as transthyretin (TTR)—has been filed for marketing authorization for treating TTR amyloidosis (ATTR). IONIS-TTR-LRx is expected to enter clinical development for ATTR in 2018.This partnership also highlights how the emergence of nucleic-acid-based drugs such as antisense therapies as an alternative modality to small molecule and antibody drugs is continuing to drive dealmaking, as discussed in one of our features.