Neurocrine Biosciences gains rights to Voyager's experimental gene therapy programmes

Neurocrine Biosciences and Voyager Therapeutics announced an agreement Tuesday potentially worth more than $1.7 billion to develop some of the latter's gene therapy programmes, including VY-AADC for Parkinson's disease and VY-FXN01 for Friedreich's ataxia, as well as two additional programmes to be determined. Neurocrine Biosciences CEO Kevin Gorman said "the partnership with Voyager allows us to expand our clinical development pipeline addressing neurological disorders [and] leverage Voyager's expertise in [central nervous system]-focused gene therapy." 

As part of the deal, Neurocrine Biosciences will pay Voyager $165 million in cash, including a $115-million upfront payment and a $50-million equity investment at a per-share price of $11.96, representing a premium of about 50 percent to Voyager's share price on January 28. Voyager will also receive funding from Neurocrine Biosciences for costs related to the programmes, as well as up to $1.7 billion in development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments across the four programmes. 

In particular, Neurocrine Biosciences will fund Voyager's Phase II/III development programme for VY-AADC. After data readout from the mid-stage RESTORE-1 study, Neurocrine Biosciences will have an option to either co-market VY-AADC in the US with equal cost and profit sharing, as well as milestones and royalties on sales outside the US, or receive full global rights to the gene therapy in exchange for milestone and royalty payments based on global sales. 

Regarding VY-FXN01, Neurocrine Biosciences will fund development through Phase I testing. After data readout of the early-stage trial, Voyager will be eligible to either jointly commercialise the drug in the US under a 60/40 cost- and profit-sharing arrangement, or it will award Neurocrine Biosciences full US rights in exchange for milestones and royalties based on US sales. Under the terms of a 2015 partnership, Sanofi retains an option for non-US rights to VY-FXN01 following data readout of the Phase I trial.

The news comes after Neurocrine Biosciences' selective VMAT2 inhibitor Ingrezza (valbenazine) recently failed to significantly improve tic severity in a mid-stage study of children and adolescents with moderate-to-severe Tourette syndrome. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Neurocrine hits a dead end in Tourette's syndrome

For further analysis, read ViewPoints: Neurocrine looking to get ahead of the curve with Voyager deal.

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