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Eisai banks on potential of Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug

Published on 24/10/17 at 09:18am

Drug developers investigating Alzheimer’s drugs know that they’re taking a gamble; there have been numerous big failures that have caused larger companies to shy away from the difficult-to-treat area.

Only recently, Axovant, a part of the “vant” group of companies that attempts to rescue out-of-favour drug candidates, revealed that its Alzheimer’s drug had failed, wiping off most of the value of the company.

However, Eisai has displayed serious confidence in Biogen’s Alzheimer’s treatment that could spark increased interest that the latter company may be onto something.

The move sees Eisai take up a licensing option agreed with Biogen in 2014, that will see them pick up some of the development costs of aducanumab in return for the ability to bring the drug to market in Asia, whilst also picking up specified percentages through the rest of the world.

The original 2014 deal saw Biogen and Eisai work together on developing two of the latter’s Alzheimer’s candidates, which Eisai saw receive the right to opt-in to develop and commercialise two of Biogen’s compounds.

The like-for-like deal had gone quiet until now, with Eisai deciding to take up the offer on aducanumab. Clearly Eisai has seen enough to think that opting is a gamble worth taking; it means that the two candidates Eisai had brought to the table, E2609 and BAN2401, will no longer yield any milestone payments for the company. However, neither will Eisai have to pay anything to gain access to co-develop aducanumab.

Biogen will continue to be the lead developer of the drug through ongoing Phase 3 trials, as well as shouldering the costs of developing it until April 2018. At which point, Eisai will take on 15% of the cost until the end of 2018 and will then cover 45% of the funding from January 2019 onwards.

Eisai CEO Haruo Naito commented, “Genetic epidemiological studies such as the Icelandic genetic research as well as the knowledge recently gained from various clinical studies such as the aducanumab Phase 1b trial have deepened our conviction in the amyloid hypothesis […] In accordance with this new paradigm, we plan to further co-develop the collaboration products and hope to advance the world’s potentially first new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease based on the amyloid hypothesis. Through the collaboration and by leveraging each company’s respective strengths in each region, we hope to maximize the benefits for patients and their families.”

As footnote to this deal, it was announced that co-promotion agreement was reached between the two companies in regards to Avonex, Tysabri and Tecfidera in Japan, India and other Asia-Pacific markets, excluding China.

Ben Hargreaves

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