Acorda bags PhIII Parkinson's drug in $363M Biotie buyout

Acorda Therapeutics ($ACOR) has swooped in to buy Finland's Biotie ($BITI) for $363 million in cash, snagging a Phase III Parkinson's drug that is being lined up to follow its leading experimental drugs into the neurology market.

Acorda's prize in the deal is tozadenant (SYN-115), an oral adenosine A2a receptor antagonist that's registered proof of concept data for reducing "off" times among Parkinson's patients taking the standard levodopa/carbidopa remedy. Acorda also gains SYN-120, an oral, 5-HT6/5-HT2A dual receptor antagonist in Phase II development for Parkinson's-related dementia.

Acorda CEO Ron Cohen

Biotie is being acquired for $25.60 a share, a big premium on the $13.20 close on Friday, which was well under a $24 peak reached soon after the company went public on Nasdaq last summer. The biotech ended last week with a market cap of $162 million,

The deal to acquire tozadenant is complementary with Acorda's decision to bag Civitas and its inhaled levodopa therapy CVT-301 in a $525 million buyout in late 2014. If all goes according to plan, says an Acorda spokesperson, 301 should line up for an NDA in early 2017, with tozadenant coming along for review in late 2018.

Ardsley, NY-based Acorda says that tozadenant has a peak revenue projection of around $400 million, following 301's $500 million annual potential and more from their diazepam nasal spray Plumiaz for epilepsy--rejected by the FDA in 2013 and now back in the clinic. Collectively, these three drugs have the potential to push the biotech well past the billion-dollar mark in added revenue, according to Acorda.

Biotie bought out Synosia's A2a tech in a $121 million deal 6 years ago.

The big idea behind tozadenant is that by blocking the effect of adenosine at the A2a receptors, you can restore the motor function lost to Parkinson's. And there's a theory in play that the same target could play a role in protecting dopamine-producing cells, which would play a much bigger role in treating the disease, if it's true.

"Adenosine A2a receptor antagonists may be the first new class of drug approved for the treatment of Parkinson's in the U.S. in over 20 years," noted Acorda CEO Ron Cohen in a statement. "Approximately 350,000 people with Parkinson's in the U.S. experience OFF periods, and if approved, tozadenant could provide a much needed treatment option." 

But success is by no means guaranteed. Merck ($MRK) had to scrap an A2a receptor drug, preladenant, after it flunked out a Phase III, failing to beat out a placebo in 2013. And Parkinson's is a tough disease overall to treat, with a number of failures along the way.

Vernalis and Biogen ($BIIB) also had a program in the clinic for Parkinson's, but had to scuttle vipadenant in 2010 based on signs of preclinical toxicity. Vernalis licensed out rights to its program dubbed V81444 to an unnamed U.S. biotech last year. 

But there's also a role here in immuno-oncology, which is focused on spurring an immune attack on cancer cells. AstraZeneca ($AZN) acquired an adenosine drug from Heptares in a $510 million deal. Palobiopharma had a drug called PBF-509 in Phase II for lung cancer, but licensed it to Novartis ($NVS) last October. And Domain Therapeutics set up Kaldi Pharma to pursue work on their program, which pairs an adenosine drug with a PD-1 drug.

Acorda is agnostic to the tech involved in its M&A strategy, adds the spokesperson, but remains carefully focused on the neurology market, with plans to augment a sales force that can pick up tozadenant when a prospective approval comes through.

- here's the release

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