GeNeuro snags a $455M deal, inks MS drug pact with Servier

Jesús Martin-Garcia

Geneva-based GeNeuro, a spinout of the Institut Mérieux, has come up with a licensing deal with Servier that will deliver $47 million needed to complete an upcoming Phase IIb study of its experimental therapy for multiple sclerosis. And in return France's Servier gets an option on ex-U.S. and Japanese rights that's tied to a $408 million package of milestones along with a chance to buy an equity stake in the biotech sometime in the next year.

GeNeuro was spun out of the institute--which owns a majority stake in the diagnostics company bioMérieux--in 2006 and has been doing clinical work on GNbAC1, an antibody that is designed to shut down MSRV-Env, the envelope protein of MS-associated retrovirus. By blocking a protein that is reactivated in MS brain lesions--which the biotech's investigators say is both pro-inflammatory and an inhibitor of remyelination--the company says it has a new pathway to pursue that has the potential to address both relapsing and remitting MS as well as the progressive form of the disease, something that has never been accomplished before.

"Everything that's been tried so far deals with the immune system cascade," says Jesús Martin-Garcia, chairman of GeNeuro. "We're really trying to go after a completely different approach with MS." Some of their mid-stage results were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology last spring.

In a recently completed Phase IIa, he adds, investigators treated 9 progressive MS patients with the drug for a year, concluding that it was safe and also hit a slate of biomarkers for the disease.

So far, he says, Eclosion and Institut Mérieux has provided about $35 million for the R&D work at the company, which has a staff of 16. This new deal with Servier provides enough cash to continue their work for three to four years, after which Servier will have the option to pick up the drug for its ex-U.S./Japan territories.

In the meantime, GeNeuro says it will expand its staff as it travels further down the clinical pathway, with an eye to doing further work on related ailments like Type 1 diabetes.

"The importance of this agreement demonstrates Servier's willingness to dedicate its research to serious diseases with major unmet medical needs," says Emmanuel Canet, the VP of research at Servier. "This new partnership should allow Servier to provide patients with a new treatment against a particularly disabling disease".

- here's the release

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