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Biogen Teams Up With Startup CAMP4 to Scout for New Neuro Drugs

Xconomy Boston — 

[Updated 2:42 p.m. See below.] The next neuroscience drug that joins Biogen’s pipeline might come from the research of startup CAMP4 Therapeutics.

The two Cambridge, MA-based companies are starting an alliance that will use CAMP4’s technology to find genetic targets that could lead to new drugs. Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) is paying its new partner $15 million up front and it’s footing the bill for the research work. CAMP4 could earn up to $96 million in development milestones for each initial target selected (the companies aren’t saying how many are covered by that amount), plus royalties from sales if they reach the market. For each additional drug target that Biogen chooses after reaching the inital target threshold, CAMP4 could earn up to $173 million, plus royalties from sales. [Paragraph updated to clarify the financial terms.]

Josh Mandel-Brehm (pictured above), CAMP4’s president and CEO, says that the genes associated with many diseases are already known. The challenge is finding the right targets to drug. CAMP4 aims to discover those targets. The company has developed technology that maps the signaling pathways that cells use to control genes, which is meant to reveal potential new drug targets, Mandel-Brehm says.

The research partnership with Biogen will focus on microglia, a type of immune cell of the central nervous system that a number of drug developers have been studying in their efforts to develop therapies for neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. CAMP4 will find the targets and provide them to Biogen, which will have the opportunity to develop drugs addressing those targets. The partnership will last three years, though Mandel-Brehm says the deal can be extended. The agreement also allows the partners to explore other cell types associated with CNS disorders.

The research that CAMP4 will do under the deal is exclusive to Biogen. But CAMP4 is also developing its own drugs in other disease areas. Founded in 2016, the company’s early work focused on the liver, which sparked research into non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a type of fatty liver disease. Mandel-Brehm says CAMP4 now has a preclinical NASH program.

CAMP4 has expanded its research to other parts of the body. The company is currently developing gene circuit maps for the brain, kidney, heart, immune cells, and muscle. He adds that those maps could become starting points for other pharmaceutical partnerships similar to the deal CAMP4 has with Biogen.

“What we’re really interested in is creating a map of the body that will allow us to grow the platform,” Mandel-Brehm says.