Acorda Doubles Down on Parkinson, Buys Biotie For $363M

Xconomy New York — 

A few years ago Acorda Therapeutics bought Civitas Therapeutics, a biotech about to go public, in a bid to branch out into Parkinson’s. Clearly, that wasn’t a one-off move; this morning, Acorda added two more potential treatments for the disorder by acquiring Finland’s Biotie Therapies.

Acorda (NASDAQ: ACOR), of Ardsley, NY, is paying $363 million for Turku-based Biotie, or about $25.60 per share in cash. In return, Acorda gets one Parkinson’s drug candidate called tozadenant on the verge of a Phase 3 trial, and another, SYN120, in mid-stage clinical testing.

The move is part of Acorda’s plan to expand beyond its multiple sclerosis drug dalfampridine (Ampyra). Parkinson’s has clearly become an area of focus, starting with the company’s decision in September 2014 to buy Civitas and its inhalable version of the decades-old Parkinson’s drug, levodopa. Acorda paid $525 million for Civitas while the Chelsea, MA, company, a spinout of Alkermes, was preparing for an IPO. Acorda has said that it expects to file an application for approval of Civitas’ inhalable Parkinsons’ drug, CVT-301, in 2017. Phase 3 data should come later this year and go a long way towards proving whether Acorda’s gamble was a good one.

Through today’s deal, Acorda continues to try to supplement levodopa and manage Parkinsons’ patients’ “off” episodes, when their medications stop working (CVT-301, for instance, is meant to be emergency help for patients whose symptoms reoccur despite treatment). Tozadenant is being tested as an adjunct to regimens with levodopa/carbidopa, and Acorda has stepped in to help finance its big test in Phase 3—Biotie lost UCB as a partner for tozadenant in March 2014, when the Belgian company returned rights to the drug to Biotie.

At the time, Biotie stressed that the move was a “portfolio based decision” by UCB that didn’t reflect any concerns with the drug—portfolio rearrangements and buyouts cause perfectly fine drugs to end up on the shelf all the time, though they still leave lingering questions for the company left without a partner. NPS Pharmaceuticals, for instance, reacquired rights to two drugs from Takeda in 2013 after the Japanese company bought Nycomed—and those two drugs were the reason Shire paid $5.2 billion for NPS less than two years later. Biotie has followed a similar path, albeit with a far smaller payout. Now the question is who made the right call on tozadenant—and the answer will likely come over the next few years. Acorda hopes to file for approval of tozadenant in 2018.

“Our acquisition of Biotie positions Acorda as a leader in Parkinson’s disease therapeutic development, with three clinical-stage compounds that have the potential to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s,” CEO Ron Cohen said in a statement.

SYN120, the second drug in the deal, is for Parkinson’s-related dementia. Acorda gets two other assets as well—an experimental drug for a chronic liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis, and royalties on sales in Europe of a drug called nalmetrene (Selincro), used to reduce alcohol dependency.

Acorda will hold a conference call this morning to discuss the buyout.