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BOSTON—AbbVie Inc. shared news on Monday and Tuesday of this week regarding new partnering agreements it has established. On Monday, news came of a license and supply agreements between AbbVie and Cerveau Technologies Inc. The deal is focused on [F-18]MK-6240, an investigational imaging agent meant for use in PET scans to help evaluate the status and progression of neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, which are characteristic of a number of neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer's disease among them. No financial details for the deal were released, but the companies will be exploring the use of [F-18]MK-6240 as a biomarker for clinical trials of drugs being developed for Alzheimer's disease.
Rick Hiatt, CEO of Cerveau Technologies, said in a press release, “At Cerveau we are focused on enhancing access to key technologies that we believe have the potential to advance human health. We are excited by the opportunity to work with AbbVie with the goal of expanding the availability of this novel investigational imaging agent to the broader scientific community.”
AbbVie also announced a global strategic collaboration with Alector, a privately owned biotechnology company and a portfolio company of AbbVie Ventures. The two partners will focus on the development and commercialization of medicines to treat Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Per the agreement, AbbVie and Alector will research a portfolio of antibody targets, with Alector conducting exploratory research, drug discovery and development for lead programs up to the conclusion of proof-of-concept studies. Alector will receive $205 million in an upfront payment, with the potential for a future equity investment of up to $20 million. AbbVie will have an option to global development and commercial rights to two targets. Should it choose to exercise this option, the company will take over in leading development and commercialization activities. The two companies will co-fund development and commercialization and equally share global profits.
"Alzheimer's is among the most difficult-to-treat diseases and there is an urgent need for new scientific approaches that lead to better therapies for patients," remarked Dr. Jim Sullivan, vice president of pharmaceutical discovery at AbbVie. "Alector's unique approach to engaging the immune system to combat neurodegeneration reflects our commitment to target this epidemic in new ways. We recognized the potential of Alector's research first as an AbbVie Ventures portfolio company and are now eager to partner with them to further develop this platform into meaningful advances for patients."
One area of specialization for Alector is that of immuno-neurology, which seeks to use the immune system to target neurodegenerative disorders, similar to that of immuno-oncology. Alector's programs focus on the microglia, immune cells found in the brain. The company notes on its website that “A few years ago, genome-wide association studies identified new gene variants that increase or decrease the chance of developing neurodegenerative disease. Surprisingly, a large fraction of these are immune genes primarily expressed in the microglia, suggesting that these cells not only respond to disease, but can also actively drive neuronal degeneration. By targeting immune genes tied to these specific diseases, we can improve the function of the immune system and halt progression of the disease.”
Immuno-neurology is a rapidly evolving scientific area focused on harnessing the power of the immune system to attack devastating neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease. There is increasing rationale – from large-scale human genetic analyses and animal model studies – that immune deficiencies within the central nervous system play an important role in the progression of neurodegeneration. Alector has developed an innovative immuno-neurology technology platform to simultaneously address multiple pathologies associated with neurodegeneration.
"We seek to advance the field of immuno-neurology as a new therapeutic modality for dementia and neurodegeneration. We anticipate that immuno-neurology therapies will have as much of an impact on brain disorders as immuno-oncology is having on cancer," Dr. Arnon Rosenthal, CEO of Alector, commented in a statement. "We look forward to co-developing our disease-modifying drugs in true partnership with AbbVie, which is making a bold commitment to the field."