Allergan's drive to bulk up its R&D pipeline accelerated in 2016 and looks set to follow a similar course this year.
The specialty drugmaker has taken an exclusive option to buy Lysosomal Therapeutics and its pipeline of neurological disease treatments headed by a Parkinson's disease drug—a new area for the company. And for good measure it has added a $50 million agreement with Assembly Biosciences in the more familiar territory of gastrointestinal diseases.
Lysosomal Therapeutics focuses on developing small-molecule drugs for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, and Allergan's option deal will be triggered after a Phase 1B trial of lead candidate LTI-291 is completed.
The drug is designed to stimulate the activity of an enzyme called glucocerebrosidase (GCase) in the brain—mutations in the Gcase gene have been shown to be an important risk factor for Parkinson's disease. Around 5%-10% of Parkinson's patients have mutations in the gene and tend to deteriorate more quickly.
Allergan's chief R&D officer David Nicholson said the program "harnesses the link between GCase activity and disease progression" in Parkinson's and could tackle an underlying disease mechanism in the disease.
Meanwhile, the deal with Assembly gives Allergan global rights to two preclinical drug candidates for ulcerative colitis (ABI-M201) and Crohn's disease, plus two other compounds for irritable bowel syndrome, in return for an upfront payment of $50 million plus development and regulatory milestones and R&D funding of around $3 billion, as well as royalties on sales.
After the first proof-of-concept studies are completed Allergan will take over responsibility and costs of further development, according to the two companies.
Assembly's expertise is in the area of the gastrointestinal microbiome, the population of trillions of microorganisms that live within the human body that has become a target for a number of drug developers including Seres, Vedanta and Axial Biotherapeutics. The microbiome is "rapidly gaining prominence in numerous fields of research relevant to Allergan's key areas of focus," commented Nicholson.
Allergan's current acquisition spree hit high gear in 2016 after the company's failed $160 billion merger with Pfizer, and the latest deals with Lysosomal Therapeutics and Assembly Bio suggest that momentum could be maintained this year.
The last few months have seen the company adding several new pipeline candidates. The long list included a gene therapy for retinitis pigmentosa, a drug delivery technology for eye diseases such as glaucoma, RORgamma inhibitors and LXR beta agonists for inflammatory diseases like psoriasis and a portfolio of drugs for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
Other recent deals in the GI sector include its $1.5 billion-plus alliance with AstraZeneca subsidiary Medimmune for global rights to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis drug MEDI2070, which is in Phase II testing.
Allergan's slew of new deals has been fueled by the $40 billion cash injection which came from the sale of its generics unit to Teva last July.