AbbVie Walks From Voyager R&D Pact Spanning Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s

Xconomy Boston — 

A partnership between Voyager Therapeutics and AbbVie developing gene therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease has ended without a drug for either disease reaching human testing.

Voyager (NASDAQ: VYGR) announced the termination of the research pact after market close Monday. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech is keeping full rights to its technology for using engineered viruses to deliver gene therapies to the brain. Voyager also keeps the rights to gene therapy candidates designed to code for therapeutic antibodies.

Shares of Voyager opened Tuesday at $10.83 apiece, down 4.4 percent from Monday’s closing price.

Voyager and AbbVie began working together in 2018, inking a research pact that initially focused on using Voyager’s technology to develop gene therapies that cross the blood-brain barrier. The goal was to develop therapies that deliver the instructions for producing an antibody that binds to tau, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders.

North Chicago, IL-based AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) paid its partner $69 million up front. Voyager was responsible for advancing gene therapy candidates to Phase 1 testing, after which AbbVie could license one or more of them for further development. The deal put Voyager in line to receive up to $155 million in option payments as the gene therapies made preclinical and Phase 1 progress, and up to $895 million in additional development and regulatory milestone payments for each compound.

Last year, AbbVie paid $65 million up front to expand the Voyager collaboration to include Parkinson’s. The target of this research was alpha-synuclein, a protein that forms clumps in the brain of patients who have Parkinson’s, Lewy body dementia, and multiple system atrophy. Voyager was responsible for advancing therapeutic candidates to Phase 1 testing, putting the biotech in line for up to $245 million in option payments, plus $728 million in potential milestone payments for each therapeutic candidate.

The companies offered few details about what happened with the partnership, which advanced as far as preclinical development, according to Voyager’s 2019 annual report. Voyager received AbbVie’s termination notice for the tau program on July 28, according to a Monday securities filing. The termination of the alpha-synuclein pact was received Monday, when both agreements ended. Voyager gets to keep the upfront payments, and it is now free to develop gene therapies targeting tau and alpha-synuclein on its own or with another partner.

Voyager still has a research alliance with San Diego-based Neurocrine (NASDAQ: NBIX). Last year, the San Diego-based company paid $115 million cash and purchased $50 million worth of Voyager shares for rights to an experimental gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease that’s now in Phase 2 testing. Neurocrine is Voyager’s second partner for that program. Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) gave up its rights in 2017, two years after paying $100 million up front to join forces and develop gene therapies for several neurological disorders. Voyager’s internal pipeline includes preclinical programs for Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Friedreich’s ataxia.

Image: iStock/Eraxion


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