Monday, June 15, 2009

Vitae and Boehringer Get on BACE

Vitae Pharmaceuticals and Boehringer Ingelheim will announce today that they're collaborating in the area of beta-secretase (a.k.a. beta-site APP cleaving enzyme 1, or BACE) inhibitors to treat Alzheimer's disease. [UPDATE: release is here.]

Vitae will get $42 million up-front in combined cash, equity payments and research funding, and will be eligible for $200 million in pre-commercial milestones in the Alzheimer's indication for one molecule, as well as commercial milestone payments and royalties, and payments for other molecules or other indications. But it's waaay early, which we'll get to in a minute.

Since re-embracing its discovery roots in 2005 (a phenomenon covered here through the prism of a 2005 deal with GSK in the renin area--a deal that has since been shuttered) Vitae has now entered three discovery alliances. Today's alliance, the GSK deal and a 2007 deal with Boehringer in the diabetes space that brought in $36.5 million up-front. In fact the two BI upfronts combine to equal just about all the other financing that Vitae has raised (not including milestone payments from deals) since its inception as Concurrent Pharmaceuticals in 2001.

This latest alliance is, on the face of it, a taller order than renin or the 11beta-HSD1 inhibitors Vitae is working on in the metabolic space. BACE inhibition is an extremely difficult area of Alzheimer's R&D, and the scarcity of assets around this target perhaps reflects the large-ish upfront payment for a program that Vitae's web site suggests is still in its infancy.

But for BACE-inhibition, $42 million for a program in lead optimization sounds about right. After all, CoMentis got $100 million up-front for its own BACE inhibitor program from Astellas. That compound was only in Phase I, and when it entered the clinic in 2007, CoMentis immediately became the subject of takeover rumors.

The Boehringer cash will augment a $13 million venture-debt deal Vitae closed last October. At the time of that loan announcement Vitae's runway ran 'into 2010' so the infusion should come as a welcome relief. Just maybe they'll get enough of a lead to steal second.

image from flickr user phillenium1979 used under a creative commons license

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