AbbVie's pursuit of Parkinson's back in the pink, buying mitochondria biotech for $110M

AbbVie must like what it sees from Mitokinin’s Parkinson’s candidate, having bought the company outright for $110 million upfront.

The Chicago pharma has also offered $545 million in potential milestone payments to Mitokinin's existing shareholders, according to an announcement Thursday. The deal stretches back more to March 2021 when the two companies entered into a purchase agreement to be decided on once the biotech finished IND-enabling studies for its compound, a PINK1 activator meant to correct mitochondrial dysfunction. 

The newly-acquired biotech describes PINK1 as a “surveillance system” for damaged mitochondria, organelles that act as the cell’s Energizer bunny. By activating the receptor, the theory is that the body can double down on disposing of broken mitochondria cells and reinvigorate healthy ones to deal with inflammation associated with neurodegenerative disease. 

Little is known so far about the preclinical data accumulated on the asset, though Mitokinin co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Nicholas Hertz, Ph.D., said in a release that it has been shown to “selectively enhance the active form of PINK1, which is found on damaged mitochondria, without impacting PINK-1 regulation broadly.” 

Launched in 2013, Mitokinin was born out of UCSF from Hertz and colleague Kevan Shokat, Ph.D. It hasn’t disclosed its financing over the years but counts Mission BioCapital, Pfizer Ventures, and Samambaia Investments as its backers. 

AbbVie has been aggressive in shaping its own neuroscience pipeline with Parkinson’s at the forefront but has faced hurdles as of late. Namely, a subcutaneous combo of carbidopa and levodopa was rejected earlier this year as a treatment for motor fluctuations in patients with advanced Parkinson’s after regulators had more questions about the pump portion of the delivery method. And in recent years the company has ended collaborations with Voyager and BioArctic, both of which focused on Parkinson’s meds. 

It hasn’t been all slicing and dicing for AbbVie, however. In August 2021, the company advanced a collaboration with Mission Therapeutics, plucking two preclinical candidates including one aimed at Parkinson’s. And now the Big Pharma is doling out nine digits to get its hands on Mitokinin outright.