It’s the latest among several Parkinson’s deals for Biogen Idec, including its 2010 purchase of an alpha-synuclein-targeting compound from Neurimmune Holdings. The pharma has also invested in neurodegeneration start-up Knopp Biosciences, most recently in November 2012.
But if the Biogen/Amicus deal is a modest step forward, it’s still another sign that a pharma will commit capital to an early-stage Parkinson’s project with a lot yet to prove. Other recent alliances include a couple of university deals. AstraZeneca partnered with Tufts University in a broader neuroscience pact in July. And last year, Bristol-Myers Squibb licensed a group of metabotropic glutamate receptor 4 modulators from Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. Plus, watch for coverage of Civitas Therapeutics’s latest venture funding, another bet on Parkinson’s disease that’s likely to be featured in Deals of the Week’s cousin, Financings of the Fortnight, next week. --Paul Bonanos
Which other deals are ready for prime time? We'll do our best Don Pardo voice to introduce...
Merck/AstraZeneca: AstraZeneca’s in-licensing of Merck's MK-1775 for study in certain types of ovarian cancer is the UK drug maker’s latest move to build a dynamic oncology portfolio and highlights its keen focus on the DNA damage response area and efforts to induce cancer cell death. Under the Sept. 11 deal, Merck will receive $50 million upfront, and will be eligible for undisclosed development and regulatory milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties. MK-1775 is currently in Phase IIa clinical studies in combination with standard of care therapies for treating patients with P53-deficient ovarian cancer. WEE1 helps to regulate the cell-division cycle and WEE1 inhibitor MK-1775 is designed to cause certain tumor cells to divide without undergoing the normal DNA repair processes, ultimately leading to cell death. For AstraZeneca, the addition of WEE1 inhibitor MK-1775 gives it yet another agent that targets tumor-specific DNA damage response dependencies, such PARP inhibitor olaparib and first-in-class AZD6738. Preclinical evidence suggests that MK-1775 can enhance anti-tumor properties in conjunction with DNA damage-inducing chemotherapy agents. AstraZeneca intends to study the compound in a range of solid tumor cancer types as part of a concerted push in oncology, part of a larger turn-around plan. Merck will continue to focus on its later stage oncology candidates, MK-3475 and vintafolide. In the spring, FDA granted breakthrough status to MK-3475, or lambrolizumab, a PD-1 specific monoclonal antibody for the treatment of advanced malignancy. Vintafolide is a treatment for a variety of tumor types expressing folate receptors, including ovarian and lung cancers, which Merck licensed from Endocyte Inc. in April 2012. It is paired with a radio-labeled imagingn agent to identify high-responding patients whose tumors express folate receptors. – Sten Stovall
Bayer/Broad Institute: MIT and Harvard-backed cancer research center The Eli & Edythe L. Broad Institute turns 10 this year, and is solidifying its status as a key partner for pharmas. Its latest ally is Bayer: the German giant inked a five-year oncogenomics deal under which the pair will attempt to discover new drugs that target genomic alterations selectively. The two didn’t release financial terms of the Sept. 10 deal, but the early-stage collaboration gives Bayer an exclusive option to license the compounds discovered jointly, at the pre-clinical stage. Bayer and the Broad Institute will share their compound libraries, screening platforms, and expertise, and establish a joint steering committee to decide which candidates to pursue. Established in 2003 with a $200 million gift, the Broad Institute was enlarged in 2008 when its namesake benefactors donated another $400 million. The Cambridge, Mass.-based Institute struck a two-year antibiotics research deal with AstraZeneca in September 2012, and a multi-year agreement with Roche to explore repurposed drugs in December 2012. It also granted NanoString Technologies Inc. rights to a genetic signature implicated in liver disorders, invented by Broad Institute CSO Todd Golub, in April. – P.B.