Joining forces with Skyhawk, C4 Therapeutics, Biogen buys more shots on goal on SMA, Alzheimer’s
Amber Tong – Senior Editor
These days at Biogen, the spotlight tends to fall on one of two programs: Its commercial SMA drug Spinraza, and the experimental Alzheimer’s therapy aducanumab — and its dealmaking team knows it.
In twin deals announced on Friday, Biogen $BIIB is tying up with Skyhawk Therapeutics to explore small molecule RNA splicing modifiers for spinal muscular atrophy and signing on C4 Therapeutics to research the application of protein degradation tech in Alzheimer’s — among other early-stage projects in neurology.
The financial terms disclosed so far add up to $489 million between the two pacts.
Bill Haney’s Skyhawk has the more delineated deal: $74 million upfront for research services and intellectual property rights on preclinical candidates to treat SMA, multiple sclerosis and additional neurological disorders. Any therapies resulting from the collaboration are up for grabs for Biogen, which will be responsible for development and commercialization.
Skyhawk’s work is inspired by an experienced group led by co-founder and CSO Kathleen McCarthy, who worked at Roche on the SMA drug RG7916 — now in pivotal trials after scoring positive early results — with a stint at the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation, where she had worked on a small molecule therapeutic targeting mRNA-protein interactions for SMA.
Both Roche and Novartis are now hot on the trail of Biogen’s Spinraza, the pioneering therapy in the field that’s also one of the world’s most expensive drugs.
“The SMA piece of the Biogen collaboration is especially interesting as: (1) competition in the space has increased and (2) an oral small molecule drug from Roche has recently shown very promising evidence of activity, validating the viability of the oral splicing modulation approach,” Stifel analysts wrote in a note.
C4, meanwhile, will help Biogen identify targets in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases, and provide the tech to tag these disease-causing proteins for destruction by the cell’s innate degradation mechanism, according to Michael Ehlers, EVP of R&D at Biogen. The whole collaboration is worth $415 million and though there’s no mention of the upfront, Biogen says it expects to record an R&D expense of $15 to $25 million in Q4 2018.
Founded by Jay Bradner before he took the reins of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, C4 has on deck a collaboration with stealthy anti-aging startup Calico and another oncology pact with Roche, which got a $900 million expansion Friday morning.