Ipsen continues its shopping spree with a $1B-plus deal for Exicure's next-gen oligonucleotides
Ipsen has been on a deal-making spree the last few weeks, shelling out more than a billion dollars in two separate deals to work on a mid-stage levodopa-induced dyskinesia (LID) candidate and a preclinical BAX inhibitor in several cancers. But on Monday, the company inked its largest collaboration deal yet.
Ipsen is putting down $20 million upfront and up to $1 billion in biobucks for exclusive options to two of Exicure’s discovery-stage spherical nucleic acid (SNA) treatments for Huntington’s disease and Angelman syndrome.
“Neuroscience is deeply rooted within Ipsen as a key strategic driver for our business,” Ipsen CBO Philippe Lopes-Fernandes said in a statement.
Exicure is working on oligonucleotides, or synthetic structures of nucleic acids that can be used to modulate gene expression. Several drugmakers are developing oligonucleotides against a range of targets, including Ionis, Alnylam, Dicerna and Dynavax. Exicure, though, believes its next-gen candidates can reach “previously inaccessible” target tissues, including deep brain regions.
The company’s SNAs begin with an artificial nanosphere as a scaffold, assembled with single- and double-stranded nucleic acids on the surface — creating a “third form” of nucleic acids designed to easily slip into cells without triggering an immune response. Its lead candidate, cavrotolimod, is currently in Phase II for Merkel cell carcinoma and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.
“We believe our platform technology with its deep penetration and persistence of medicinal effect will allow Exicure and Ipsen to overcome challenges from first-generation oligonucleotides and bring new medicines to patients in need,” Exicure CEO David Giljohann said in a statement.
Under the new agreement, Exicure is responsible for discovery and certain preclinical activities for the Huntington’s and Angelman programs, and Ipsen retains exclusive options to license the candidates. If Ipsen goes through with it, the company will be responsible for all further development and commercialization.
Just a few weeks ago, Ipsen put down $28 million upfront and another $335 million in biobucks for the rights to IRLAB’s Phase IIb candidate for LID — a condition related to Parkinson’s disease that tripped up the French biotech about a decade ago. IRLAB will be responsible for the ongoing Phase IIb trial, while Ipsen is on the hook for all other clinical development and worldwide commercialization, including Phase III preparatory work.
And just last week, Ipsen promised up to $852 million to collaborate on BAKX Therapeutics’ preclinical BAX inhibitor in leukemia, lymphoma and solid tumors. Just over $14 million of that is due upfront, and the partners will split the costs and profits.