Voyager Therapeutics, AbbVie Add Parkinson’s to Gene Therapy Pact

Xconomy Boston — 

Voyager Therapeutics and AbbVie, already partners developing gene therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, are now expanding their alliance to include Parkinson’s.

AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) is paying Cambridge, MA-based Voyager (NASDAQ: VYGR) $65 million up front under the new deal. Gene therapies use viruses to carry the genetic instructions into cells. The agreement calls for Voyager to develop the viral vectors that will transport into the brain the genes that code for the production of therapeutic antibodies. These antibodies would target a protein called alpha-synuclein, which forms clumps in the brain that are characteristic of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Lewy body dementia and multiple systems atrophy.

AbbVie and Voyager are aiming to provide an alternative to current antibody treatments for brain diseases that require frequent injections. If a gene therapy from the new partnership works, it could offer a one-time treatment.

The agreement calls for Voyager to advance the gene therapy research through Phase 1 testing. After that, AbbVie has the option to license the program for further clinical development, and if approved, commercialization.

Depending on the progress of the research, Voyager could gain up to $245 million in option payments, plus $728 million in milestones for each compound. If any treatments from the collaboration reach the market, Voyager would receive royalties from sales, and could also earn up to $500 million in commercial milestones.

The Parkinson’s partnership comes a year after Voyager and AbbVie joined forces to develop gene therapies that target tau, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Voyager has struck deals with other companies as well. Last month, the company licensed rights to its experimental Parkinson’s gene therapy VY-AADC to Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ: NBIX) for $165 million in cash and stock.

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