Lundbeck is set to pay $250 million (€223 million) upfront to buy Abide Therapeutics. The deal will give Lundbeck a phase 2a Tourette's syndrome program, a central nervous system drug discovery platform and a West Coast research hub.
In the wake of a series of disappointments in the clinic, recently installed Lundbeck CEO Deborah Dunsire identified the need to rebuild the pipeline through dealmaking. Now, Dunsire has begun that process by paying $250 million in cash and committing to $150 million in milestones for a clinical-phase asset and resources expected to generate a stream of follow-up candidates.
The outlay will give Lundbeck control of Abide, a La Jolla, California-based biotech. Abide has spent the past eight years working to tap the potential of serine hydrolase enzymes, a large, diverse class of proteins involved in blood clotting, digestion, nervous system signaling, inflammation and cancer.
Through these efforts, Abide discovered an inhibitor of the serine hydrolase monoacylglycerol lipase (MGLL), ABX-1431. Lundbeck thinks the role MGLL plays in endocannabinoid signaling means hitting the target could lead to improved outcomes in multiple psychiatric and neurological conditions. Abide is running phase 1 and 2a trials in neuropathic pain and Tourette’s, respectively.
Celgene paid $50 million for an option on ABX-1431 and another asset in 2014, then handed over a further $20 million to exercise it two years later. The big biotech changed course last year, though, dropping its option to buy Abide and returning the rights to ABX-1431.
As Abide’s lead candidate, ABX-1431 is the near-term prize, but Lundbeck sees the takeover giving it more than a clinical-phase asset. Lundbeck highlighted the potential for Abide’s platform to generate more drugs and its intention to make the biotech’s labs part of its drug discovery infrastructure.
Working with a proprietary chemical library, an activity-based protein profiling assay technology and metabolomics methods, Abide claims to have discovered inhibitors of about 80% of the 200 human serine hydrolases. Lundbeck thinks the platform can yield drugs against a broad spectrum of brain diseases, starting with conditions in which the endocannabinoid system is involved.
Abide’s 40-person team in La Jolla will continue to work toward that goal once the deal closes, with Lundbeck choosing to make the lab one of its drug discovery hubs rather than shut it down. Dunsire and her colleagues hope the lab will provide Lundbeck with an ongoing supply of R&D prospects.
Lundbeck needs that bet to pay off. Recently, the company has been beset by pipeline setbacks, from the failure of AF35700 in treatment-resistant schizophrenia to the inconclusive results of late-phase trials of Rexulti in Alzheimer's disease patients with agitation. The blows have left Lundbeck without new prospects to offset generic competition, driving it to write checks to rebuild the pipeline.