Biogen has agreed to buy an experimental Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s treatment from Pfizer, the company announced Monday. In the agreed deal, Biogen will pay Pfizer $75 million up front for an early-stage drug that aims to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients.
The early-stage drug, PF-05251749, is a CNS-penetrant small molecule inhibitor of casein kinase 1 (CK1). CK1 regulates the body’s “central clock,” which maintains sleep, the circadian rhythm and metabolism.
Biogen is planning on developing the drug to treat Sundowning in Alzheimer’s, a symptom affecting 20 percent of Alzheimer’s patients. Sundowning is associated with sleep issues in Alzheimer’s, and is characterized by patients showing signs of restlessness, agitation or anxiety later in the day.
CK1 will also be developed as a possible therapy for Irregular Sleep Wake Rhythm Disorder (ISWRD) in Parkinson’s disease. In ISWRD, patients sleep poorly and irregularly at night, and experience impairment in daily living due to fatigue and daytime sleepiness.
“This asset is highly complementary to our existing pipeline of potential disease-modifying therapies in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases,” Dr. Alfred Sandrock, Executive Vice President, Research and Development and Chief Medical Officer at Biogen, said in a company news release.
“Many patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s suffer from debilitating sleep disorders and agitation, and we believe that the regulation of the circadian rhythm may hold promise in addressing these challenging behavioral and neurological symptoms,” he continued.
The announcement comes after pharmaceutical company Pfizer removed itself from the dementia drug development arena in 2018, when it announced it would halt any further development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s drugs.
Meanwhile, 2019 marked an eventful year for Biogen. In March, Biogen cancelled late-stage Alzheimer’s trials for its drug, aducanumab, crushing hopes among patients. It reversed itself in October 2019, when the company announced it would be reviving aducanumab and submitting the drug for FDA approval after new data analysis showed it was effective.
At the Clinical Trials for Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD) conference in San Diego in December 2019, Biogen reported that the drug worked in treating Alzheimer’s. Experts called aducanumab a “milestone achievement.”
But more work is to be done before FDA approves aducanumab to treat Alzheimer’s patients. And not all of Biogen’s ventures have been successful — at the end of 2019, it cancelled a Phase 2 clinical trial that was testing a drug that aimed to fight tau buildup in the brain.