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Lundbeck expands clinical pipeline and divests preclinical research programs

Lundbeck research

The company starts the clinical development of a potential new treatment of schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease and divests two research programs to biotech company MindImmune Therapeutics.

A phase I-study in healthy volunteers with a compound, invented by Lundbeck, has just begun, adding it to Lundbeck’s clinical pipeline. It is a so-called PDE1-inhibitor, and the compound — Lu AF76432 – addresses impaired communication between cells in certain parts of the brain that causes cognitive/functional deficits, e.g. the loss of concentration, loss of memory, the ability to learn and planning of daily tasks. Such cognitive symptoms are prominent in diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, and Lu AF76432 has the potential to help ease these symptoms in patients suffering from these diseases.

Phosphodiesterase type 1 (PDE1) is an enzyme naturally present in the human brain where it plays an important role in the communication between brain cells. Inhibiting the enzyme increases the presence of a chemical messenger within the cells that improves the communication, in turn improving the cognitive function. The phase I-study is designed to provide information about safety and tolerability, general pharmacokinetic characteristics and to identify maximum tolerated dose.

Further to Lu AF76432, Lundbeck expects to move another 1-2 of its in-house compounds into clinical development during 2018.

Focus on four disease areas

The company also further focuses its preclinical research pipeline with the divestment of two research programs to biotech company MindImmune Therapeutics. In exchange for the programs, Lundbeck receives an equity interest in MindImmune as well as milestone payments and royalties according to the progression of the programs.

The agreement follows Lundbeck’s strategy of focusing its efforts within four disease areas; depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, for which the programs are not relevant. Per its strategy Lundbeck itself has therefore not prioritized further development of the programs, but the agreement ensures that these potential new treatments will now be brought forward. There will be no costs for Lundbeck associated with the future development of the programs.

“We focus on treatments for depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, so we are pleased to divest these two promising research programs that fall outside our focus areas in line with our strategy. This agreement ensures the continued development of the programs building on our research and hopefully leading to new and better treatments for patients”, says Kim Andersen, Senior Vice President, Research, at Lundbeck.

Targets the immune system

The two programs target parts of the body’s own immune system. Malfunctions here are believed to cause chronic neuropathic pain and Huntington’s disease, which may therefore hopefully be treated by the compounds now transferred to MindImmune.

“We greatly appreciate the confidence Lundbeck has shown in MindImmune,” says Stevin Zorn, Ph.D., President and CEO of MindImmune.  “We are committed to driving these programs forward and bringing product candidates into the clinic with the potential to transform the lives of patients with chronic neuropathic pain and Huntington’s disease.”

The agreement with MindImmune follows similar deals in recent years in which Lundbeck has exchanged non-strategic research programs for equity interests, milestone payments and/or royalties. Such deals include the transfer of a compound for treating sickle cell disease to Imara, Inc. and of gaboxadol to Ovid Therapeutics Inc. for development as a treatment for Angelman syndrome and Fragile X syndrome.