ViroPharma snags rare disease drug in potential $127M deal

ViroPharma is banking on an anti-oxidant compound to combat a rare neurological disease. The Exton, PA-based company ($VPHM) grabbed a worldwide license to the compound from Intellect Neurosciences and plans to continue its development against Friedreich's Ataxia.

Intellect Neurosciences, a tiny developer based in New York, is getting $6.5 million upfront in the deal and the potential to reap $120 million in milestone payments from ViroPharma. The key asset in the pact--a small molecule called OX1, which is a naturally occurring antioxidant--has already passed muster in a small safety study in The Netherlands. ViroPharma has plans to advance the compound into mid-stage development within the next year to 18 months, according to a release.

Friedreich's Ataxia, a rare progressive disease, leads to iron buildups in the cytoplasm of cells and results in progressive nerve damage, causing a range of troubling symptoms such as speech problems, uncontrolled muscle movements and hearing loss.

"Sadly, there are currently no FDA-approved treatments for this devastating disease," Jennifer Farmer, executive director of Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance, said in a statement. "We look forward to working with ViroPharma to advance this therapy forward, through building collaborative efforts with our clinical research network and connecting them to the patient community through our worldwide patient registry."

- here's the ViroPharma release

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