Neurocrine, in Second Epilepsy Deal, Pairs With Swiss Biotech Idorsia

Xconomy San Diego — 

Neurocrine Biosciences is doubling down on epilepsy, striking its second agreement in as many months with a new deal that grants it the option to license an investigational treatment for a rare form of the disease.

The San Diego-based drug developer (NASDAQ: NBIX) last month struck a deal with Xenon Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: XENE) that added an experimental treatment for a rare, hereditary form of early-onset epilepsy to its pipeline.

Now the San Diego-based drug developer has struck a partnership with Swiss biotech Idorsia. The companies Friday announced an agreement that gives Neurocrine the option to license Idorsia’s ACT-709478, a type of drug known as a T-type calcium channel blocker, for 30 days after Idorsia receives FDA approval for testing it in children with a rare form of the disease. (The companies didn’t specify which form.)

Idorsia’s compound completed early clinical studies in Europe, results from which the company plans to use to support its request to the FDA to start a Phase 2 study in patients with the condition. Neurocrine, which paid $5 million up front last year for the option right, has since agreed to pay additional costs related to the application.

If the FDA accepts the application, a decision anticipated in mid-2020, and Neurocrine decides to license ACT-709478, it has promised to fork over $45 million up front, then up to $365 million more based on predetermined development and regulatory milestones. If ACT-709478 reaches the market, Idorsia could get one-time payments based on sales thresholds, plus tiered royalties.

The companies have also entered into a research collaboration to drum up new T-type calcium channel blockers, which could bring Idorsia additional payments based on any products that emerge.

If Neurocrine does exercise the option, it has agreed to put $7 million into the research collaboration. If it declines, it may apply the $5 million it paid in 2019 toward the research.

Calcium channel blocking drugs are used to lower blood pressure by preventing calcium from entering the cells of the heart and arteries, where it causes them to beat more strongly. Some existing epilepsy drugs also target types of calcium channels, including ethosuximide (Zarontin).

Neurocrine CEO Kevin Gorman (pictured), in a prepared statement, said the compound could also potentially treat other conditions, such as essential tremor and pain.

Idorsia is a spinoff of Actelion, which was acquired for $30 billion in 2017 by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). The new company launched with $1 billion in cash and multiple clinical-stage drugs.

Since its start, the company has inked a number of licensing and collaboration agreements, including an immunotherapy deal with Roche and an agreement with Rockville, MD-based ReveraGen to research and develop vamorolone, an investigational Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment.

Neurocrine has also signed a number of deals recently. In its agreement with Xenon, announced last month, it got the rights to a Phase 1 sodium channel inhibitor being developed as an epilepsy treatment. The companies also signed a research collaboration to discover other such drugs.