Bristol-Myers Squibb has offloaded two neurodegenerative disease programs to Biogen and Roche in separate deals. The licensing deals for the Alzheimer’s disease and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) assets will net Bristol-Myers $470 million upfront, with up to $615 million more in milestones to follow.
Biogen accounts for the lion’s share of the cash. The Big Biotech is paying $300 million upfront and up to $410 million in milestones to get its hands on BMS-986168, an anti-tau antibody seen as a treatment for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and Alzheimer’s disease. Bristol-Myers bought the asset in its takeover of iPierian. But, having handed over $175 million upfront, committed to up to $550 million more and run three phase 1 trials, Bristol-Myers has decided to sell the candidate.
The deal gives Biogen responsibility for further development of the antibody. Biogen plans to move the asset quickly into phase 2 in PSP, the focus of Bristol-Myers' R&D efforts, and Alzheimer’s, the biotech’s own area of particular interest.
“Biogen aims to be a leader in Alzheimer’s disease and we are building a pipeline with multiple approaches to address the complex, devastating process of neurodegeneration,” Biogen R&D EVP Michael Ehlers said in a statement. “Based on encouraging safety and efficacy data, we believe BMS-986168 is a promising anti-tau candidate that may represent the next wave of medicines for Alzheimer’s disease as well as the first real answer for progressive supranuclear palsy.”
Bristol-Myers filed details of a planned phase 2 trial in PSP with ClinicalTrials.gov at the end of February. That submission cited March 30 as the anticipated start of the study, although today it is still listed as yet to open for enrollment. The trial is due to enroll 396 patients with PSP and give them either BMS-986168 or a placebo.
As Biogen advances that study and other trials, it will pay up to $550 million—including an imminent $60 million milestone—to iPierian shareholders on top of its commitment to Bristol-Myers.
Roche is on the hook for a smaller sum of money. The Swiss drugmaker is paying $170 million upfront and up to $205 million in milestones for the rights to BMS-986089, a novel fusion protein that emerged from Bristol-Myers’ $430 million takeover of Adnexus Therapeutics. BMS-986089 is designed to improve outcomes in DMD by suppressing myostatin, a protein that inhibits muscle growth and differentiation.
As with the anti-tau antibody, Bristol-Myers was on the cusp of starting a key trial of BMS-986089 when it struck the deal with Roche. Bristol-Myers submitted details of a phase 2/3 trial at the end of January, two months before it planned to start enrolling the first of 159 patients. According to ClinicalTrials.gov, the study is yet to open for enrollment.
Since signaling its intent to start the phase 2 PSP trial and phase 2/3 DMD study, Bristol-Myers has brought in a new CSO, hiring Thomas Lynch, M.D., to replace Francis Cuss. The clear-out of the neuroscience candidates continues a shift that began under Cuss, who pulled Bristol-Myers out of discovery-stage work in the sector but kept one foot in the field by acquiring iPierian and pushing ahead with the Adnexus technology.