Voyager vaults higher on Neurocrine deal for Parkinson's gene therapy
- Voyager Therapeutics has found another partner to help advance its portfolio of experimental gene therapies, inking a collaboration deal with Neurocrine Biosciences that will pay the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech $165 million upfront.
- In return, Neurocrine gains certain rights to four gene therapy programs, including one in Parkinson's disease in an ongoing Phase 2 study, the companies said Tuesday. Voyager has previously partnered with AbbVie and Sanofi Genzyme.
- Voyager, which will also be eligible for up to $1.7 billion in milestone payments from Neurocrine, saw its stock surge upwards by as much as 60% at market open Tuesday before trading back to up 40%. Neurocrine shares, on the other hand, fell by about 4%.
Neurocrine will add four gene therapies to its pipeline through the agreement, although only the Parkinson's program is in clinical testing.
Of the three preclinical programs, two are yet to be determined and the third is for a rare, inherited neurological disease called Friedrich's ataxia, or FA. The companies aim to identify a lead clinical candidate for FA this year.
That leaves VY-AADC for Parkinson's disease as the centerpiece of the deal. The gene therapy is designed to deliver the AADC gene into the neurons where dopamine receptors are located, the company said. The working theory is this will produce AADC enzymes capable of converting levodopa into dopamine, which would help restore motor function and improve symptoms.
The treatment has been tested in a Phase 1b trial, longer-term results of which Voyager disclosed last November.
Earlier this month, the biotech revised its ongoing Phase 2 trial, RESTORE-1, to increase its size from 75 to 100 patients, and also outlined Phase 3 plans.
The Neurocrine deal comes as a boost and validation to Voyager's research, particularly for its Parkinson's program following an Oct. 2017 decision by Sanofi Genzyme to opt out of its option for ex-U.S. rights to the program.
In addition to an immediate cash boost for Voyager — which listed about $180 million in cash and equivalents at the end of September 2018 — Neurocrine will also pay for large chunks of future development costs.
For VY-AADC, Neurocrine will fund the Phase 2 and 3 pivotal programs. Following RESTORE-1 trial data, Voyager has the option to either co-commercialize or give Neurocrine full global rights.
The deal also offered a stock market respite for Voyager, which had seen its shares tumble by 65% over the past 12 months.
Raymond James analyst Dane Leone wrote in Jan. 29 note that the deal "builds credibility" for Voyager and its chief executive, Andre Turenne, who took over last July.
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