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Ipsen’s spending spree bolsters neurology pipeline

Paris-based Ipsen will harness new drug delivery tech to combat neurodegenerative diseases

Ipsen headquarters

Spherical nucleic acids (SNAs) are once again in the headlines after Ipsen announced a collaboration with clinical development company, Exicure, to develop novel therapies using the new technology.

SNAs have been heralded as a potential game-changer for the delivery of oligonucleotides deep into the brain. Unlike DNA’s famous double helix structure, SNAs are three-dimensional nanoscale constructs of densely packed synthetic nucleic acid sequences.

The collaboration grants Ipsen exclusive options on Exicure’s novel SNAs under investigation in Huntington’s disease and Angelman syndrome. Ipsen is paying $20m up front and Exicure could receive up to $1bn in option exercise fees and milestone payments, as well as tiered royalties.

This is the second major deal for the Chicago-based Exicure, which struck a $25m deal for its SNA tech with Allergan (now AbbVie) in 2019 to discover hair loss drugs.

Huntingdon’s disease is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disorder affecting 40,000 people in the US alone. Angelman syndrome is a rare, neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 1 in 12,000-20,000 people and is characterised by severe intellectual deficit, speech impairment, epilepsy and behavioural abnormalities.

No effective therapy is currently available for either condition.

Many potential drugs for neurological disorders are oligonucleotides – synthetic structures of nucleic acids that can modulate gene expression – but their use is limited by difficulties in delivering the drug deep into the brain. Exicure’s proprietary SNA technology enhances the ability of a therapy to penetrate into cells and to remain longer compared to currently available types of drugs.

The deal is part of Ipsen CEO David Loew’s pledge to bolster its pipeline and is the third deal to be announced in only a few weeks. In July, the company announced an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with IRLAB for mesdopetam, for levodopa-induced dyskinesia in Parkinson’s disease, and with BAKX Therapeutics for its BKX-001 for leukaemia, lymphoma and solid tumours.

In December 2020, Ipsen announced plans to spend $3.6bn to grow its pipeline by 2024, helping to offset the loss of patent protection for cancer treatment Somatuline (lanreotide), its top-selling drug, which saw sales of €1.1bn in 2020.

Article by
Hugh Gosling

Hugh Gosling is a healthcare writer and editor

3rd August 2021

From: Research, Healthcare

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