After Qalsody win, Biogen agrees to help Israeli biotech with ALS research

Fresh from Qalsody’s success, Biogen has agreed to lend its amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) expertise to assess whether a candidate from NeuroSense Therapeutics could prove to be a hit against the same biomarker.

NeuroSense is currently running a phase 2b trial of PrimeC—a formulation of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin and the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib—in ALS. The Israeli company revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing yesterday that it has entered into an agreement for Biogen to assess PrimeC’s impact on neurofilaments, for which elevated levels are considered a biomarker for ALS.

The biotech will provide Biogen with blood samples from 69 trial patients, which will be used for a biomarker analysis study to be funded by the Big Pharma. NeuroSense will keep Biogen updated with the patients’ clinical outcomes along with the results from other biomarkers being assessed.

The biotech also granted Biogen the right of first refusal to co-develop and co-commercialize PrimeC under the agreement. 

In a statement to Fierce Biotech, Biogen described the deal as a “material transfer agreement,” in which it will conduct a biomarker analysis.

“This agreement/decision has no bearing on Biogen’s efforts in ALS,” Biogen said.

Biogen has had some success in the ALS arena recently, courtesy of the FDA’s conditional approval of Qalsody in April. It followed an FDA advisory committee recommendation that Qalsody’s ability to reduce neurofilament levels provided enough basis for the approval in patients with ALS associated with a mutation in the SOD1 gene.

The FDA green light marked a “consensus that neurofilament can be used as a surrogate marker reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit in SOD1-ALS,” Biogen CEO Chris Viehbacher said at the time.

Qalsody’s nod came seven months after the FDA’s approval for Amylyx’s Relyvrio. But this year has also brought reminders of why ALS remains such a tricky indication. In March, Cytokinetics' reldesemtiv flunked a phase 3 trial, followed a month later by Wave Life Sciences, which gave up on its antisense oligonucleotide after getting a peek at early-phase data in ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

Editor's note: The story was updated to clarify the nature of the agreement between Biogen and NeuroSense.