Biogen jettisons AMD drug, providing Catalyst for ex-partner's hunt for strategic alternatives

Biogen has dumped the dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) candidate it licensed from Catalyst Biosciences, giving its onetime partner full control of another asset as it weighs up strategic alternatives.

Catalyst granted Biogen the global license to CB 2782-PEG, a pegylated protease designed to degrade complement factor 3, late in 2019 in return for $15 million upfront and up to $340 million in milestones. The San Francisco-based biotech initially performed preclinical and manufacturing activities for Biogen but late last year listed the completion of the transfer of tasks as an upcoming milestone.

Instead of taking over the program and pushing on into the clinic, Biogen has decided to return the rights to CB 2782-PEG to Catalyst and end the collaboration on other potential AMD treatments. The decision comes at a key moment for Catalyst.

Last month, Catalyst revealed it had engaged a financial adviser to help it explore strategic alternatives. Over the past six months, the biotech’s share price has fallen from around $5 to around $0.50, with a steep fall coming in November when it gave up on a clinical-phase candidate after concluding it would be impossible to deliver top-line data in 2022 as previously planned. 

Catalyst put the hemophilia assets up for sale at the time of the November decision before going on to start considering strategic alternatives for the entire business last month. Biogen’s decision to dump the dry AMD drug means Catalyst has another candidate to pitch to potential partners or buyers. Catalyst CEO Nassim Usman said the company is “delighted” to regain the rights to CB 2782-PEG.

For Biogen, the jettisoning of CB 2782-PEG marks another failed attempt to find a growth driver, albeit one that cost it relatively little to pursue. Biogen paid the $15 million upfront and a little more to support research at Catalyst, but the big payouts were all still to come under the terms of the agreement.

Investors drove a double-digit rise in Catalyst shares following the news, although that still left the stock trading well below $1.