Biogen is doubling down on Alzheimer’s with a massive gene therapy deal

February 28, 2020, 3:52 PM UTC

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Happy Friday, readers.

You may recall that Biogen stunned the biotech world last fall when it announced it would be reviving its left-for-dead experimental Alzheimer’s treatment aducanumab. The company wasn’t just bringing the treatment back to life, it plans on submitting to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for regulatory approval, hoping to lay claim to the first medicine ever approved to treat the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s (rather than just its symptoms).

That controversial decision was spurred by a new analysis of data from aducanumab trials (more on that here). And we’ll find out soon enough if the gamble will work. But in the meantime, Biogen is plowing forward in a risky therapeutic space many other companies have abandoned after decades of failure.

Biogen has now struck a massive gene therapy deal with Sangamo Therapeutics, sending the smaller firm’s share soaring as much as 30% in early Friday trading. The collaboration will involve a series of Sangamo’s preclinical experimental treatments in the central nervous disorder space, including two therapies that would use gene regulation in order to tackle Alzheimer’s (ST-501) and Parkinson’s disease (ST-502), respectively.

Biogen will pony up an eye-popping $350 million in upfront cash for the partnership, underscoring the scale of its commitment to CNS treatments. And, unlike aducanumab, which targets amyloid plaque in the brain (a plaque seen in patients with Alzheimer’s), these new assets will home in on other kinds of targets such as tau.

“Biogen will collaborate with Sangamo on a new gene regulation therapy approach, working at the DNA level, with the potential to treat challenging neurological diseases of global significance,” said Biogen R&D chief Alfred Sandrock in a statement.

Read on for the day’s news, and and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


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