Biogen forges a $200M preclinical Alzheimer's drug deal with Proteostasis

Biogen Idec ($BIIB) is sticking close to its research home in Cambridge, MA, in its latest neurodegenerative drug development pact. The big biotech is teaming up with the neighboring Proteostasis Therapeutics on a potential new approach for attacking toxic proteins implicated in the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

The pact springs from Proteostasis' discovery work on what it calls "aggregation-prone" proteins like tau in Alzheimer's and alpha-synuclein for Parkinson's. By inhibiting a deubiquitinating enzyme called Usp14 investigators believe they can regulate proteasome activity, speeding up the degradation of the proteins which may be responsible for the disease. Proteostasis had in-licensed the work of Harvard Professors Daniel Finley and Randall King to create the program and now the partners will go in search of new drugs that inhibit the enzyme.

Under this new pact Biogen Idec--a leader in the multiple sclerosis field--is on the hook for up to $200 million, an unspecified package that includes an upfront payment and milestones. Proteostasis, though, has the right to opt-in later for global co-development and U.S. co-marketing rights.

These toxic proteins are a standard feature in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's patients, but no one is absolutely certain just how they affect disease pathology. Late-stage efforts to thwart Alzheimer's by attacking beta amyloid, the other protein implicated in the memory-wasting disease, have failed, spurring researchers to seek new approaches to preventing the proteins from forming in the first place, or helping very early-stage patients. If someone can actually come up with a disease-modifying drug the financial rewards will be immense, but so far dozens of companies have tried and failed.

"Proteostasis is a leader in this field, and we are pleased to be working with them to develop meaningful new treatments for patients with neurodegenerative and other diseases," said Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas, the chief scientific officer at Biogen Idec.

- here's the press release