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Neuropore, UCB Partner on Parkinson’s Drugs

Alpha-synuclein illustration

Alpha-synuclein illustration (Michael J. Fox Foundation)

16 January 2015. UCB, a biopharmaceutical company in Brussels, is licensing an experimental drug to treat Parkinson’s disease developed by Neuropore Therapies Inc., a biotechnology company in San Diego. The agreement gives UCB a worldwide license for the compound and is expected to pay Neuropore as much as $480 million.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when the brain produces less and less of the substance dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends signals from one nerve cell to another. As the level of dopamine lowers, individuals become less able to control their bodily movements and emotions. Symptoms include tremors, i.e. shaking, slowness and rigidity in movements, loss of facial expression, decreased ability to control blinking and swallowing, and in some cases, depression and anxiety. According to National Parkinson Foundation, some 50,000 to 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed each year.

Neuropore Therapies, a subsidiary of Ever Neuro Pharma in Austria, designs and discovers treatments for neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The company specializes in processes related to abnormal functioning of proteins associated with nerve cells or neurons, and develops biological compounds that aim to block these abnormal processes.

One of those proteins is alpha-synuclein, believed to play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease, where too much or abnormal forms of the protein can in some cases be toxic to nerve cells in the brain or cause the cells to malfunction. Neuropore says its small-molecule therapy code-named NPT200-11, blocks the abnormal folding and accumulation of alpha-synuclein that results in malfunctioning synapses — the signaling part of nerve cells — and cell death associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Neuropore says its tests with lab animals show NPT200-11 reduces alpha-synuclein in the cerebral cortex, lessens markers of neuroinflammation and degeneration, and improves motor functions. Michael J. Fox Foundation provided Neuropore with grants in 2010 and 2013 for the company’s preclinical studies of NPT200-11.

Under the deal, UCB gains an exclusive, worldwide license for all therapeutic applications of NPT200-11. Neuropore and UCB will collaborate on further preclinical research and the first early-stage clinical trial expected later in 2015. UCB will be responsible for subsequent clinical studies, regulatory approvals, and commercialization. Neuropore is receiving an initial payment of $20 million and eligible for development, regulatory, and sales-based progress payments with a total potential payout of $460 million, as well as royalties on sales.

UCB is a biopharmaceutical company that operates in 40 countries with 8,500 employees. UCB develops drugs for central nervous system disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and restless leg syndrome. In 2013 the company had €3.4 billion ($3.9 billion) in revenues.

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