AbbVie inks $2B-plus next-gen neuro deal with Gilgamesh

AbbVie has inked a new deal with Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals aimed at developing next-gen therapies for psychiatric disorders.

The two companies have agreed to research and develop a portfolio of therapeutics using Gilgamesh’s research platform designed to discover novel neuroplastogens—compounds that improve neuroplasticity. Under the deal, AbbVie will have the option to lead development and commercialization activities.

In return, Gilgamesh will receive $65 million upfront and have the chance to make up to $1.95 billion in aggregate option fees and milestones, as well as tiered royalties.

While certain classic psychedelic compounds demonstrate clinical efficacy in fields where other treatments have been ineffective, the compounds are often tied to significant psychoactive effects, such as hallucination. Gilgamesh’s neuroplastogens are designed to target mechanisms that provide significant clinical benefits while minimizing the side effects seen with first-generation compounds, according to a May 13 release. 

Gilgamesh, a biotech founded in 2019 that currently touts two clinical-stage assets, believes its science holds promise in a variety of psychiatric conditions, including mood and anxiety disorders.  

"Significant unmet need remains for people living with psychiatric disorders and we know that to innovate in this field, we need to pursue novel technologies and approaches," Jonathon Sedgwick, Ph.D., senior vice president and global head of discovery research at AbbVie, said in a May 13 release. "We look forward to working with Gilgamesh's world-class team to advance the development of novel neuroplastogens and pave the way for additional treatment approaches in psychiatry.”

Psychiatry is one of AbbVie’s five major neuroscience categories, along with Alzheimer’s disease, movement disorders, migraine and Parkinson’s disease.

The deal announcement comes just weeks before an FDA advisory committee is slated to discuss Lykos Therapeutics’ MDMA-assisted therapy. Set to convene on June 4, the meeting represents the first time that FDA experts will formally debate a psychedelic treatment.

Lykos (formerly known as MAPS PBC) is seeking FDA approval to use MDMA to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. The biotech is the first psychedelic maker to apply for FDA approval and have an application accepted for review.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 9:45 a.m. ET on May 14 to clarify the role of psychedelics in the new deal.