Allergan adds $1.5B R&D pact as it builds ophthalmology pipeline

Allergan isn't just about pretty faces. The maker of Botox also has some deep pockets and a serious scientific ambition. Building on a $420 million deal it already has in place with Switzerland's Molecular Partners, the pharma company ($AGN) has come back to the bargaining table to deepen its pipeline for ophthalmic drugs. Allergan paid $62.5 million upfront and promised up to $1.4 billion dollars in milestones in the deal, which covers a pair of R&D programs.

In one pact Allergan is licensing rights to MPO260, an anti-VEGF-A/PDGF-B treatment for wet, age-related macular degeneration. The two companies will push the program through human proof-of-concept, at which point the Swiss biotech will have the option to co-fund further development in exchange for a big step-up in royalties. The second stage of the agreement covers the discovery of new eye drugs, with Allergan holding on to three options for exclusive licensing rights. 

Allergan first stepped up to team up with Molecular Partners back in the spring of 2011, lured by the Swiss company's DARPin technology. Allergan paid $45 million upfront to collaborate on a Phase IIb study of MP0112, a DARPin protein targeting VEGF under investigation for the treatment of retinal diseases. With another $375 million in milestones, Allergan is now committed to a total of $1.9 billion in cash and biobucks.

"This significant expansion of our agreement together with the fast progress in the ongoing phase IIb development of AGN-150998/MP0112 is a great validation of the DARPin approach," says Christian Zahnd, the CEO of Molecular Partners. 

- here's the press release
- read the Dow Jones story

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