Alexion snags option to buy neurodegeneration startup Complement

handshake over a desk with computers and someone taking notes
The deal comes 11 months after Lud­wig Hantson returned Alexion to its focus on complement biology. (rawpixel)

Alexion has secured the option to acquire Dutch biotech Complement Pharma. The agreement will see Alexion work with Complement to take a C6 complement inhibitor through phase 1b and decide whether to pull the trigger on a takeover along the way.

Complement is developing a monoclonal antibody designed to bind to complement component C6. By decreasing circulating levels of C6, Complement thinks it can inhibit the formation of membrane attack complex (MAC). The formation of MAC, a complex of complement proteins, in the peripheral and central nervous system is linked to traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative disorders such as Wallerian degeneration.

“Our understanding of the role of complement in many disorders continues to increase and many neurodegenerative diseases show activation of the complement system, even in early stages of disease,” Complement CSO Frank Baas, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement. “We believe that C6 inhibition has the potential to treat multiple neurodegenerative disorders.”

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Alexion sees potential in the asset, CP010. The rare disease specialist will pay Complement up to €14 million ($17 million) in milestones as it collaboratively moves CP010 out of preclinical development and through phase 1b. In return for the cash and support, Alexion has picked up an option to buy Complement outright during the term of the agreement.

The deal comes 11 months after Lud­wig Hantson marked the start of his tenure as CEO of Alexion by returning the biotech to its focus on complement biology. Alexion proved the therapeutic potential of the complement system—part of the immune system—by developing Soliris and turning it into a blockbuster product. But Alexion’s pursuit of pipeline prospects capable of lessening its reliance on Soliris led it into new areas.

RELATED: Alexion’s Soliris successor clears phase 3, teeing up filings

Hantson curtailed some of these explorations, dropping deals with Moderna, Blueprint and Arbutus in favor of a renewed focus on the complement system. The biotech is still willing to foray outside the niche, as evidenced by its $855 million takeover of Wilson Therapeutics, but Alexion also wants to leverage its strength in complement biology. The Complement partnership fulfills this desire.

Alexion unveiled the Complement deal alongside news that it is selling its synthetic enzyme co-factor therapy cyclic pyranopterin monophosphate to BridgeBio Pharma.