Neurocrine pays Voyager $165M for neurological gene therapies

Neurocrine Biosciences is set to pay Voyager Therapeutics $165 million upfront for the rights to a clutch of gene therapies. The deal sees Neurocrine commit to $1.7 billion in milestones in return for Parkinson’s disease program VY-AADC and other assets.

VY-AADC is the most advanced of the four assets covered by the agreement. The gene therapy, which is designed to equip patients to convert levodopa into dopamine, is currently being tested in phase 2. Once the phase 2 data are in, Voyager has the option to co-commercialize VY-AADC and split the costs or profits 50/50 or cede full global rights to Neurocrine in return for milestones and royalties.

The VY-AADC program is tied to $170 million in milestones and a royalty rate that could rise to 30% in certain circumstances. Like the three other programs covered by the deal, VY-AADC is also tied to up to $275 million in commercial milestones.

Only one of the other programs has been determined at this stage. That program is VY-FXN01, a gene therapy treatment for Friedreich’s ataxia. Neurocrine will bankroll a phase 1 trial of the candidate. Once data from that study are available, Voyager can opt to enter into a 60/40 co-commercialization deal or grant full U.S. rights to Neurocrine. Sanofi has an option on the ex-U.S. rights to the asset.

The identities of the other two programs are yet to be determined, but Neurocrine has already agreed to fund their development and pay up to $130 million in milestones per asset, plus royalties. After all the milestones are tallied, Neurocrine is on the hook for $625 million and $1.1 billion in development and commercial fees, respectively. Neurocrine is also paying $115 million and making a $50 million equity investment upfront.

By pocketing the upfront cash and getting Neurocrine to pay for development, Voyager has secured its financial future through early 2022. Shares in Voyager rose 36% in premarket trading following news of the deal.

For Neurocrine, the deal represents a significant pipeline expansion. Neurocrine made its name in neurology with Ingrezza, the first drug to win FDA approval in tardive dyskinesia. The biotech is also developing Ingrezza in Tourette syndrome and has North American rights to a late-phase Parkinson’s program. But the pipeline is light on earlier-phase clinical assets such as VY-FXN01.