AbbVie shrugs off $134M cash deals, quitting a neuro R&D pact with Voyager Therapeutics on vectorized antibody treatments
It’s the end of the road for Voyager Therapeutics’ collaboration with AbbVie on tau and alpha-synuclein vectorized antibody development.
In two deals spanning the last two years, AbbVie dropped more than $134 million upfront for Voyager’s preclinical R&D of vectorized antibody treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But Voyager says AbbVie is walking away now, without offering an explanation for why.
The first deal, penned in 2018, honed in on the potential treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases by reducing tau pathology, now a hot spotlight in the wake of numerous amyloid beta setbacks. AbbVie paid Voyager $69 million upfront to develop vectorized antibodies directed against tau. Cambridge, MA-based Voyager had the opportunity to bag another $155 million in preclinical and Phase I payments, and $895 million in development and regulatory milestones.
The following year, the collaboration expanded to include vectorized antibodies directed at pathological species of alpha-synuclein for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other synucleinopathies. In that deal, Voyager pocketed $65 million upfront, with the chance to earn another $245 million in preclinical and Phase I payments, $728 million in development and regulatory milestones, and $500 million in commercial milestones.
Voyager’s one-time intravenous injections are designed to deliver genes across the blood-brain barrier that encode for the production of therapeutic antibodies.
Following Voyager’s R&D, AbbVie had the option to advance one or more candidates to IND-enabling studies and clinical development. After Phase I clinical development, the drug maker could have licensed Voyager’s antibody programs for further clinical development and commercialization — though neither program made it that far.
With the collaboration coming to an end, Voyager has regained full clinical development and commercialization rights to the experimental drugs developed with AbbVie in the tau program. And Voyager says it’s free to pursue another partner to develop its vectorized antibody programs for tau and alpha-synuclein.
“Through the tau and alpha-synuclein collaborations, we believe we have made considerable progress against targets for neurodegenerative diseases with this novel approach, reinforcing our enthusiasm for its potential to deliver therapeutically efficacious levels of biologics to the brain and central nervous system,” said Omar Khwaja, Voyager’s CMO and head of R&D, in a prepared statement.
“We believe our continued work on discovery and design of novel AAV capsids with substantially improved blood-brain barrier penetrance will also considerably broaden the potential of AAV-based gene therapy, including vectorized antibodies or other biologics, for the treatment of severe neurological diseases,” he continued.
Voyager’s stock $VYGR fell about 15% to $9.62 after-hours on Monday, after the changes were announced.
The company’s most advanced drug in the pipeline is VY-AADC, an AAV-based gene therapy currently enrolled in a Phase II trial to treat Parkinson’s disease.