Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) could pay more than $1 billion to the Boston-based biotech startup Cerevance to develop potential drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.
The collaboration will center around Cerevance’s Nuclear Enriched Transcript Sort
sequencing (NETSseq) technology platform.
The platform’s origins trace back to research at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Under the terms of the deal with Merck, Cerevance will license its preclinical Alzheimer’s drug program to Merck.
Merck will now pay Cerevance $25 million and could pay an additional $1.1 billion in milestone-based payments plus potential royalties.
Although there are a handful of FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimer’s, most focus on treating the symptoms rather than the cause of the condition.
One exception is Biogen’s aducanumab, which reduces amyloid deposits in the brain. It is not yet clear, however, if the drug has a cognitive benefit for patients.
Conversely, Cerevance’s pipeline drug CVN293 intends to modulate a novel target selectively expressed in brain microglia, which is associated with neuroinflammation. A variety of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, have a neuroinflammatory component.
CVN293 is currently in an IND-enabling study.
Cerevance is also unique in its approach to studying neurodegenerative disease. It collects brain tissue for experiments intended to shed light on disease etiology.
To date, it has analyzed more than 11,000 human brain tissue samples from various ages and brain regions.
The company recently announced positive Phase 2 data for another drug candidate, CVN424, in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Cerevance Chief Scientific Officer Mark Carlton, Ph.D. said in a news release that the company believes it is “well-positioned to identify novel targets for neurodegenerative diseases and look forward to collaborating with Merck to potentially bring forward transformative therapeutics for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Having attracted $65 million in Series B venture funding in 2020, Cerevance is in the process of soliciting a Series C round of financing.
Takeda Pharmaceutical formed Cerevance in collaboration with Lightstone Ventures in late 2016.
Filed Under: Neurological Disease
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