Roche snags another Alzheimer's antibody from AC Immune in $418M-plus deal

Just weeks after the NIH selected a promising Alzheimer's drug from Roche ($RHHBY) and AC Immune for a pioneering $100 million study, the pharma giant has gone back to the biotech well, agreeing to pay more than $400 million in milestones for a separate anti-Tau program. The partners did not disclose the size of the upfront payment involved.

Roche and Switzerland's AC Immune partnered on crenezumab back in 2006. The NIH has agreed to help pay for a new study of the drug that will test its ability to delay or prevent Alzheimer's in an extended Colombian family afflicted with an extraordinarily high rate of the memory-wasting disease. And Roche says it's hopeful that this new antibody program - which will be handled at its Genentech unit - proves an effective add-on for their CNS pipeline.

"The anti-tau-antibodies have proven highly specific to misfolded Tau in relevant animal models for Alzheimer's disease and are therefore well suited to be developed as a disease-modifying drug. This has significant potential as there are at present no known cures for Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Andreas Muhs, the chief scientific officer at AC Immune.

The pact comes just months ahead of Phase III data for solanezumab and bapineuzumab, two Alzheimer's drugs held by Eli Lilly ($LLY) and a consortium led by J&J ($JNJ) and Pfizer ($PFE). Those companies have been pouring huge sums into their development efforts, though analysts give the companies poor odds. In this field, even modest results in the clinic have a shot at returning megablockbuster returns. 

"While expectations are appropriately low, commercial prospects for success rival that of the industry's largest $20 billion-plus markets, and could transform the outlook for some of the developers," notes Deutsche Bank analysts, according to Reuters' report.

- here's the press release
- read the story from Reuters