Biogen backs Rodin's Alzheimer's efforts in a $500M deal

Rodin CEO Adam Rosenberg

Rodin Therapeutics recruited Biogen ($BIIB) to help advance its novel approach to Alzheimer's disease in a pairing that could end with the Atlas Venture company getting bought for $485 million.

Cambridge, MA-headquartered Rodin has concurrently raised $17.3 million in equity from Atlas and Biogen and inked a partnership agreement with the latter that comes with a back-end buyout option.

Rodin is taking an epigenetic approach to central nervous system disease, crafting small-molecule therapies to modulate the process that governs heritable genes and how they express themselves. The company's principle target is HDAC2, an enzyme that regulates protein production and plays a role in the transcription of genes related to cognition, according to Rodin. Alzheimer's is Rodin's first big disease target, and management believes its approach could also have potential in Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The company is still two to three years away from clinical trials with its lead drug, CEO Adam Rosenberg said, but the biotech figures its latest financing will allow it to meet its internal timelines in early-stage development. And locking down a collaboration agreement with Biogen will give Rodin access to the resources it needs to execute its preclinical ambitions, the company said.

And if everything goes according to plan, Rodin's work would eventually become part of a Biogen neuroscience pipeline. Under the pair's multiyear deal, Biogen will have the right to buy its partner for as much as $485 million in upfront and milestone payments once Rodin's research reaches an unspecified inflection point.

Biogen's work in neurology--including its high-profile project in Alzheimer's--makes the Big Biotech a fitting partner for Rodin and its pipeline, Rosenberg said. But beyond disease-area expertise, Biogen brings a practical focus on measurable outcomes that is especially key in CNS research, he said.

Recent years' slew of clinical failures in neuroscience in R&D have in part stemmed from the industry's struggle to adequately measure what its projects are doing, as many drug developers have pressed forward without sophisticated biomarkers to chart the effects of treatment. Rodin--whose work is more focused on cognitive decline than changing the course of neurodegenerative disease--is developing its biomarkers and therapeutics in parallel, an approach that makes Biogen an ideal partner, Rosenberg said.

"One of the really compelling aspects of working with Biogen is the significant investment they've made in translational biomarkers and incorporating that in their clinical strategy," he said. "If you look at their research, it's pretty amazing how much of a focus they have on biomarkers."

Founded in 2013, Rodin closed a $12.9 million A round the following year to fund its discovery efforts in epigenetics. Rosenberg, the former CEO of Teleos Therapeutics, came aboard in late 2015.

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