Ipsen digs deeper into Parkinson's disease with $28M upfront IRLAB deal despite past struggles

Ipsen is dishing out $28 million upfront to IRLAB with $335 million in potential biobucks to nab a midstage Parkinson's disease therapy, digging deeper into the difficult brain disorder that has previously stymied the French pharma.

Mesdopetam is currently in a phase 2b trial, which will be completed by IRLAB. Ipsen will then take over phase 3 duties and all other remaining clinical development and global commercialization responsibilities, should the treatment get the green light. The company will get exclusive worldwide rights to the treatment as part of the deal.

If the drug hits the market, Swedish pharma IRLAB will get tiered low double-digit royalties on net sales.

The therapy is being tested in Parkinson’s patients who have been treated for five years and are experiencing levodopa-induced dyskinesia, a common side effect of the widely-used medicine levodopa that causes involuntary rapid jerking and twisting or muscle spasms. About 40% to 50% of people living with the disease experience this side effect, the companies said.

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Earlier testing of mesdopetam showed it was safe and well tolerated. IRLAB is also in the early stages of developing mesdopetam in Parkinson’s disease psychosis, a common symptom that about 50% of people with the disease eventually develop, the companies said.

"We have purposefully worked to find a partner to pursue the late-stage clinical development of mesdopetam to commercialization and launch on a global market. Ipsen shares the broad vision for mesdopetam and the commitment to people with neurological disorders," said Nicholas Waters, Ph.D., CEO of IRLAB, in a statement.

IRLAB is also separately working on another Parkinson’s disease treatment, pirepemat, which has completed phase 2a studies, with a phase 2b trial expected to being later this year.

Ipsen has struggled in the Parkinson’s field before, with major flops on two previous partnerships for the disease. Ipsen jointly discovered a novel LRRK2 inhibitor with Oncodesign in 2012 through a research collaboration. Oncodesign now lists Servier as its partner on that potential therapy, with a phase 1 study expected in 2022 and up to $360 million on the line for Oncodesign.

Nine years ago, Ipsen gave back the worldwide rights for the development and commercialization of a potential levodopa-induced dyskinesia treatment to Santhera, which has since dropped Parkinson’s on its pipeline.

Parkinson's disease has seen wide interest from Big Pharma companies recently. GlaxoSmithKline inked a $2.2 billion deal with Alector earlier this month to co-develop and sell two drugs for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The deal includes a whopping $700 million upfront.

RELATED: Bayer's billon-dollar Parkinson's disease bets land in the clinic

Last month, a therapy developed through Bayer's biotech subsidiary BlueRock Therapeutics landed in the clinic. The German Big Pharma also kicked off a phase 1b gene therapy trial in the disease through Asklepios BioPharmaceutical.

Anavex said last month its Parkinson’s treatment beat placebo at slowing progression of motor and non-motor symptoms. The company will submit the phase 2 data to the FDA to explore next steps.