Biogen Idec is making another step towards building itself into a neurological diseases drug specialist. The Weston, MA-based biotech company (NASDAQ:BIIB) said today it has acquired a subsidiary of the Swiss biotech firm Neurimmune Holding to gain worldwide rights to antibody drugs against three specific proteins, which might cause neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s when they mis-fold.
Biogen, the world’s largest maker of multiple sclerosis drugs, said it has agreed to pay Neurimmune $32.5 million upfront and up to $395 million in potential milestone payments. The companies have a previous agreement that dates back to 2007 to discover antibodies against a separate protein target related to the treatment of Alzheimer’s. For the programs included in the new deal, Biogen is responsible for clinical development and commercialization of the antibody drug candidates and Neurimmune is taking on research duties such as discovery of back-up candidates against the protein targets of interest.
This latest deal fits with the strategy that Biogen revealed in early November when it announced it would axe about 650 jobs, close its cancer research hub in San Diego, and take other steps to emphasize its neurology business. The company, founded in 1978, is building on its existing base in this market with products such as its top-selling MS drugs interferon beta-1a and (Avonex) and natalizumab (Tysabri). The layoffs and other cost-cutting steps the firm announced last month are expected to reduce its expenses by about $300 million per year.
This deal with Neurimmune helps Biogen build up its neurology pipeline beyond its core strength in multiple sclerosis, which is becoming an increasingly competitive corner of the neurology market with large drug makers such as Novartis and EMD Serono advancing new oral MS therapies.
“Biogen Idec is committed to becoming the global leader in the development of innovative therapies for neurodegenerative diseases,” Alfred Sandrock, senior vice president of neurology research and development at Biogen, said in a statement. “Neurimmune continues to impress us with their ability to translate scientific insights into innovative antibodies for the potential treatment and prevention of many neurodegenerative diseases.”