Busy Biogen Idec fuels Amicus in Parkinson's drug chase

Biogen Idec ($BIIB) has added another biotech alliance in neurology. Amicus Therapeutics ($FOLD) revealed Tuesday that the biotech giant has agreed to fully fund research and development of the company's Parkinson's disease program.

Biogen, which is the top seller of multiple sclerosis drugs, has tapped Amicus for the Parkinson's alliance after expanding its R&D work with Isis Pharmaceuticals ($ISIS) on multiple neurological targets. Building on its MS franchise, the Weston, MA-based biotech giant has looked to smaller biotech groups such as Isis and Amicus to feed its pipeline of drugs for neurological disorders.

Parkinson's disease, which affects about a million Americans, is caused by the destruction of dopamine-making brain cells and robs people of motor control. The most common therapy for the disease is levodopa, which increases dopamine activity in the brain but only manages early symptoms of the disease. Pharma groups have yet to provide a single therapy to reverse the disorder, never mind cure the chronic illness.

A hallmark of the disease is the accumulation of alpha-synuclein in the brain, and researchers have linked the buildups to a gene mutation that leads to a deficient glucocerobrosidase (GCase) enzyme. Amicus aims to use funding from Biogen to find small molecule drugs that increase the activity of the lysosomal enzyme GCase to stymie the alpha-synuclein buildups in the brain.

"Amicus has been a pioneer in the discovery of novel small molecules that increase GCase activity in the brain," Tim Harris, senior vice president of translational medicine at Biogen Idec, said in a statement, "and we look forward to working together to discover potential treatments for Parkinson's disease."

Biogen has agreed to fund all discovery, development and commercialization work on Parkinson's drugs from the Amicus pact. Amicus stands to gain "modest" royalties from Biogen on sales of drugs from the alliance.

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