Biogen bets more than $700M on Alectos' preclinical oral Parkinson's drug to shore up pipeline

As Biogen continues to reel from the rollout (or lack thereof) of its FDA-approved Alzheimer’s med Aduhelm, the company is looking elsewhere for promising clinical candidates tackling neurodegenerative diseases.

Specifically, the company is betting more than $700 million on Alectos’ preclinical oral Parkinson’s disease med AL01811, according to an announcement Monday. The drug is a GBA2 inhibitor that looks to correct acid levels in lysosomes, cellular waste managers that, when dysfunctional, have been linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Biogen says GBA2 inhibitors show promise at reducing lysosomal pH levels and increasing vATPase, an enzyme that helps regulate acid levels so that lysosomes can function. 

As part of the deal, Biogen will hand over $15 million in upfront cash with more than $707 million in biobucks waiting in the wings. Both companies will work together on preclinical development of the med, with Alectos fully handing over the reins to Biogen if and when AL01811 hits the clinic. 

The deal comes as Biogen continues to look for a path forward following the disappointing rollout of Aduhelm, with mixed results so far. One of Biogen’s more promising assets, Ionis-partnered antisense drug tofersen designed, failed in a phase 3 trial for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in October. Another ALS asset from the collaboration, BIIB078, flopped in a phase 1 study in March and was sent packing

But it hasn’t been all bad news for Biogen, which announced last week that its postpartum depression med, zuranolone, developed with Sage Therapeutics, passed a crucial phase 3 test. That followed lukewarm data on the drug to treat major depressive disorder released in February. 

Beyond AL01811, Alectos' pipeline of preclinical assets falls into two groups: O-GlcNAcase inhibitors designed to treat dementia, Alzheimer's and ischemic stroke; and an undisclosed Parkinson's disease treatment.