As Pfizer clears house of its unwanted neuro assets, Biogen has become a buyer for one, namely a phase 2-ready schizophrenia drug.
Biogen will pay a fairly modest $75 million upfront for the therapy, with backloaded biobucks of $515 million coming into play, if all goes well, as well as “tiered royalties in the low to mid-teen percentages.” That extra cash would of course need everything to go right, and for an approval down the line.
The drug, known currently as PF-04958242, works as an AMPA receptor, which facilitates fast excitatory synaptic transmission in the body’s central nervous system, a process which can be disrupted in disorders such as schizophrenia.
It’s early-stage, having done predominately phase 1 safety tests, but Biogen says it now wants to start a phase 2 in the second half of the year.
The test would focus on those with the disorder who are suffering from cognitive impairment, something that affects the majority of those diagnosed, but Biogen says it remains an unmet need when it comes to the overall treatment of schizophrenia. The disease has a fair amount of drugs on the market for it, but new, cutting-edge therapies have not been the focus of most biopharma pipelines over the past few years.
Michel Vounatsos, Biogen’s CEO, said: “Given the significant unmet patient need and Biogen’s ability to apply its scientific expertise in this area, we are enthusiastic to advance development of this asset as we continue to expand our neuroscience pipeline, including in our emerging growth areas such as neuropsychiatry.”
“When cognition is impaired, you lose the ability to make sense of the world. Things we often take for granted in our daily lives, including processing information, planning and remembering, all become difficult or impossible,” added Michael Ehlers, EVP of research and development at Biogen.
“Cognition can be impaired in multiple neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases, including schizophrenia. And we know that the extent of cognitive deficits in patients with schizophrenia is a strong predictor of daily functioning. We look forward to quickly pursuing development of this potential innovative therapy to treat such a devastating disease.”
PF-04958242 was one of a group of neuroscience drugs that Pfizer decided to ax this year, with the others including drugs for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, with most being early-to-mid-stage.
It also cut hundreds of staffers from the area, although it is setting up a neuroscience venture fund “to support continued efforts to advance the field,” as it looks to redirect the rest of its neuro cash into other pipeline areas.
Biogen’s biggest and perhaps riskiest bet in neuro currently is late-stage Alzheimer’s attempt aducanumab, a drug that follows the amyloid theory, a theory which has been battered by late-stage failures of late.