AbbVie, Voyager add Parkinson’s disease, $65M to ‘vectorized’ antibody pact

A year after AbbVie and Voyager Therapeutics teamed up on Alzheimer’s disease, they are expanding their partnership to include Parkinson’s disease and other diseases in which misfolded alpha-synuclein protein builds up in the brain.

Under the expanded deal, Voyager will carry out research and preclinical development to “vectorize” antibodies against alpha-synuclein that are chosen by AbbVie, the companies said in a statement. The Big Pharma may then pick more candidates to move into IND-enabling studies and the clinic. Voyager will cover all the work through phase 1, after which AbbVie will have the option to license programs for further development and commercialization.

Voyager will pick up an upfront fee of $65 million in cash. It stands to collect up to $245 million in preclinical and phase 1 opt-in payments, and an additional $728 million in milestones for each alpha-synuclein vectorized antibody that comes out of the pact. Another $500 million in commercial milestones, as well as the usual royalties, are also up for grabs, the companies said in the statement.

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The duo initially joined forces in February 2018 to develop a one-off treatment for Alzheimer’s disease that uses adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors to produce “vectorized” anti-tau antibodies in the brain. At the time, AbbVie forked over $69 million upfront, with another $155 million in preclinical and phase 1 option payments and up to $895 million development and regulatory milestones for each compound down the line.

Voyager’s vectorized antibody platform is designed to tackle the challenge of getting enough antibodies across the blood-brain barrier to bring about a therapeutic effect. The company aims to deliver genes that code for therapeutic antibodies—in the case of Alzheimer’s, anti-tau antibodies—via AAV vectors in a one-time intravenous injection. The hope is that this approach would have dosing advantages and better efficacy over current methods, which administer antibodies systemically.

“The expansion of AbbVie’s partnership with Voyager represents the potential we see in the ability of its vectorized antibody platform to surpass the blood-brain barrier and more effectively deliver biologic therapies,” said Jim Summers, Ph.D., who heads up discovery neuroscience research at AbbVie.