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AbbVie returns to Voyager, searching for Parkinson’s gene therapy

  • After inking an R&D deal almost a year ago to the day, AbbVie and Voyager Therapeutics announced another agreement Friday, expanding their partnership to include development of experimental gene therapies for Parkinson’s disease.
  • Voyager will develop alpha-synuclein vectorized antibody compounds as directed by AbbVie, aiming first at Parkinson’s. Voyager will be responsible in progressing them from preclinical development through Phase 1 testing, where AbbVie will hold an exclusive option to license the programs moving forward.
  • Per the deal, AbbVie will pay Voyager $65 million upfront, laying out more than $1 billion in potential clinical and commercial milestone payments.

Voyager has been busy this year, with the AbbVie deal the biotech’s second significant pact in 2019.

Less than a month ago, the clinical-stage gene therapy company reached a deal with Neurocrine on four gene therapy candidates, including a Parkinson’s disease program in the middle of Phase 2 testing. In that deal, Neurocrine paid $165 million upfront and put up to $1.7 billion in potential milestone payments.

With AbbVie, the companies reached an R&D deal focused on Alzheimer’s disease paying $69 million upfront about a year ago.

In expanding the partnership, AbbVie views the vectorized antibody platform as having the potential “to surpass the blood-brain barrier and more effectively deliver biologic therapies,” said Jim Summers, AbbVie’s vice president of discovery neuroscience research, in a Feb. 22 statement.

Voyager and AbbVie are focused in this new deal on Parkinson’s disease, with AbbVie selecting certain alpha-synuclein antibodies. After Voyager further develops the big pharma’s choices, AbbVie can decide which to advance into Investigational New Drug-enabling studies and bring into the clinic.

After Phase 1 studies are complete, AbbVie again can choose which, if any, programs to license for further development and commercialization.

Overall, the Neurocrine and AbbVie deals bolster Voyager’s cash reserves, combining to total $230 million in upfront payments. As of the end of last September, the company had about $180 million in cash and equivalents. The company’s fourth quarter earnings call is set for next Tuesday, Feb. 26, after market close.

Voyager’s stock jumped up nearly 25% upon Friday’s market open, trading at $12.90 per share. That is still significantly down from a year ago, when shares were trading at a relative peak of around $30 apiece.