Struggling Alkermes spends $950M sculpting Rodin buyout

illustration of brain using branches for AI
Alkermes' Rodin buyout comes after it slashed scores of jobs last month. (Pixabay)

Just a month ago, it was announcing it was slashing scores of jobs; now, it’s willing to put down nearly $1 billion to buy out CNS biotech Rodin Therapeutics.

Last month, Alkermes said it would lay off about 160 employees, cut back its future hiring plans and reduce spending in an effort to save $150 million. The move, which will cost the company $15 million, followed the FDA rejection of its depression drug ALKS 5461 back in February and a quarter during which the company posted a net loss of $52.9 million.

With ALKS 5461 out the window, Alkermes is now focusing on its early-phase immuno-oncology program, ALKS 4230, and its schizophrenia drug, ALKS 3831.

It is now hoping to buy its way out of some of its trouble and thinning pipeline with Rodin, an Atlas Venture-incubated startup focused on neurological work, specifically first-in-class, orally available, brain-permeable therapeutics for synaptopathies.

Rodin’s big idea is based on research showing that synaptic loss and dysfunction is a primary pathology in Alzheimer’s disease as well as other neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

It’s developing a set of brain-penetrant small-molecule drugs designed to boost pathways that play a key role in synaptic function, all the while attempting to lower key safety concerns.

“Rodin's targeted approach to strengthening synaptic integrity is backed by a robust translational strategy and may have potential across multiple diseases which are characterized by impaired neuronal and synaptic function,” said Adam Rosenberg, CEO of Rodin.

“With its proven ability to develop novel medicines for the treatment of CNS disorders, we believe Alkermes is ideally suited to advance this exciting new approach to neurologic diseases and bring potential new treatment options to patients that may benefit from Rodin's synaptogenic platform.”

Rodin, which is still early-stage (though Alkermes is looking to push through INDs for clinical trials), gets $100 million upfront, with $850 million wedded in biobucks and an extra $20 million in added R&D cash.

Rodin had originally penned a potential buyout deal with Biogen back in 2016, but that fizzled out just a year later.