Roche signs Prothena for up to $600M in Parkinson's drug development deal

Prothena's PRX002, a preclinical treatment targeting Parkinson's disease, is at the heart of a deal with Swiss pharma giant Roche ($RHHBY), worth up to $600 million plus 30% of U.S. profits to the Irish biotech.

The $600 million figure includes an unspecified upfront payment and a near-term clinical milestone payment totaling $45 million. The potential drug is expected to enter Phase I clinical trials in the first half of 2014. Prothena ($PRTA), formerly a business unit of Elan, will share all U.S. development and commercialization costs with Roche on the same 70/30 basis.

Roche will have sole responsibility for developing and commercializing PRX002 outside the U.S., where Prothena will receive up to double-digit royalties on sales of the potential drug, according to a press release published Wednesday afternoon. Shares in Prothena were up by about 7.7% in after-market trading, following the announcement.

At a time many biopharmas have been curtailing R&D efforts in neurosciences, where disease pathology can be devilishly difficult to puzzle out, Roche is committing added resources. Neuroscience is one of four key research areas identified by a resurgent pRED, Roche's Basel-based research group, which operates a parallel pipeline with Genentech under the guiding hand of John Reed.

PRX002 is a humanized version of an antibody that has been tested in cellular and animal models. In mice, it protected synaptic connections and improved performance.

The potential drug targets synuclein proteins, particularly alpha-synuclein, a component of pathological inclusions that characterize Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative disorders, collectively termed synucleinopathies. Roche and Prothena may focus on other pathologies, following the Parkinson's effort, on similar revenue-sharing terms to those announced with the Parkinson's deal today, Prothena executives said in a conference call Wednesday.

Luca Santarelli, Roche's head of neuroscience and small molecules research

"Parkinson's is a severely debilitating and progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to both a gradual worsening of motor function and cognitive and behavioral alterations," said Luca Santarelli, head of neuroscience and small molecules research at Roche, in a statement. "Currently, there is no treatment that modifies its course, and by targeting one of Parkinson's key molecular determinants, PRX002 has the potential to slow down or reduce its progression. This approach is consistent with our strategy in other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, multiple sclerosis or spinal muscular atrophy, where we target the molecular pathophysiology and intervene early with the objective to slow down or halt the progression of disease."

- read the press release
- watch Prothena's 30-second video on how PRX002 is designed to work