Praxis ends year on high with $100M biobucks UCB deal for epilepsy medicine

It’s been a tough year of layoffs and pipeline culls for Praxis Precision Medicines, but the biotech is ending 2022 on a positive note courtesy of a collaboration with UCB to develop a potential first-ever treatment for a specific type of epilepsy.

The collaboration is based upon Praxis’ PRAX-020 program to discover small-molecule therapeutics as potential treatments of KCNT1-related epilepsies, for which there are currently no approved treatments. As well as an upfront payment from the Belgian biopharma, Praxis will be eligible for development and commercial milestone payments to the tune of up to $100 million, on top of royalties. UCB retains an exclusive option to in-license global development and commercialization rights to any KCNT1 small-molecule candidate that results from the agreement.

The money will come as welcome news to Praxis, which laid off staff and halted a clutch of clinical trials after its nervous system drug PRAX-114 failed to deliver in a phase 2 study in June. The company moved to prioritize its programs in movement disorders and epilepsy, a decision that appears to have paid off with the UCB deal.

Not that Praxis’ bank account is empty—the Boston-based company had $123.7 million in cash and equivalents as of the end September. It may be a drop of over $150 million on the funds the biotech entered the year with, but Praxis reckoned it was still enough to fund it through the start of 2024, even before any payments from UCB are taken into account.

“Our internal research efforts give us confidence that small molecules can selectively inhibit the KCNT1 channel and potentially could be an effective treatment for individuals suffering from KCNT1-related epilepsy,” Praxis CEO Marcio Souza said in a postmarket release Tuesday. “The collaboration with UCB validates this approach and will allow us to accelerate efforts toward a potential treatment for KCNT1 patients.”

As well as a number of other potential epilepsy programs in preclinical development, Praxis has one already in phase 2, with others due to enter phase 1 and 2 before the end of the year. One of these, PRA-562, was recently released from an FDA clinical hold.