- AstraZeneca plc said Tuesday it has agreed to jointly develop an early-stage candidate for Parkinson's disease with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd., sticking to its strategy of out-licensing or partnering on assets that don't fit with its core therapeutic focus.
- Takeda will pay AstraZeneca up to $400 million for equal rights to any future revenues of the compound, with a undisclosed amount due upfront in 2017 and the rest in development and sales milestone payments.
- The drug in question, an alpha-synuclein antibody known as MEDI1341, is set to enter Phase 1 clinical trials later this year. AstraZeneca believes MEDI1341 has superior affinity and selectivity than other similar antibodies tested in Parkinson's.
For the past several years, AstraZeneca has aggressively sold off non-core assets in a effort to partially offset falling revenue from loss of patent protection for top-sellers like Crestor (rosuvastatin) and Nexium (esomeprazole).
Declines from those products have weighed on the British drugmaker's bottom line and the company expects total revenue to fall by low- to mid-single digit percentages this year. Yet, CEO Pascal Soriot has pledged a turnaround led by new and emerging drugs in oncology, respiratory and cardiovascular/metabolic diseases.
Divestments and asset partnerships such as the deal inked with Takeda are meant to generate enough so-called "externalization" revenues to bridge to a future where those products have become top-sellers.
That narrative took a major hit last month, with AstraZeneca's flagship checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi (durvalumab) failing to hit its first mark in the closely watched MYSTIC study. While the trial will continue — studying Imfinzi's effect on overall survival in first-line lung cancer — the setback was a huge blow to AstraZeneca's hopes of catching rivals.
Externalization revenues have been effective at lessening the bleeding from patent expiries and make strategic sense as the drugmaker narrows its focus to core therapeutic areas. Yet they won't bail out poor returns on R&D if AstraZeneca hits further clinical roadblocks.
For Takeda, the collaboration with AstraZeneca adds to its neuroscience pipeline, an area it hopes to strengthen amid a broader pivot in R&D.
MEDI1341 is designed to prevent or stop the spread of clumps of protein aggregates which accumulate in nerve cells of patients with Parkinson's.
AstraZeneca will lead Phase 1 development once the drug enters the clinic, while Takeda will take over all future clinical development activities. Costs and any future revenues will be shared equally.