Developing an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease has proven to be a challenge for the pharmaceutical industry.

Big drug-maker Eli Lilly had high hopes for their experimental candidate, but encountered difficulties a pivotal phase III trial. Merck & Co also had to shutter its own drug development program after an independent data monitoring committee determined there was “virtually no chance of finding a positive clinical effect” recommending the trial be stopped for futility, reported Reuters.

Still, the projections for the treatment space are lucrative, according to an analysis done by research and consulting firm GlobalData. The firm predicts the market for Alzheimer’s disease therapies will achieve double-digit growth due to the introduction of 20 new drug candidates that have shown potential to prevent or slow down the progression of the condition.

With the industry still interested in these prospects, it’s no surprise two pharmaceutical firms struck large deals for research and development initiatives focusing on this disease.


Biogen unveiled two new deals aimed at bolstering its possible blockbuster Alzheimer’s treatment aducanumab.

First, the French biotech announced it would be expanding its existing partnership with Japanese drugmaker Eisai.

The initial collaboration was struck with Eisai in 2014 to jointly develop and commercialize an array of investigational Alzheimer’s disease treatments including aducanumab.

Both companies agreed to expand that agreement since aducanumab has progressed further down the development pipeline.

Essentially, this new deal, “leverages each company’s respective geographic strengths for commercialization and adjusts the respective share of profits from potential sales of aducanumab,” according to the announcement.

Biogen will continue to lead ongoing phase III development of aducanumab while remaining solely responsible for all development costs until April 2018. Eisai will then reimburse Biogen for 15 percent of expenses starting April 2018 through December of that year.

Furthermore, Biogen will receive 55 percent of potential profits in the U.S. and 68.5 percent in Europe while Eisai will receive a majority of the profits emanating from Japan and Asia (with the exclusion of  China and South Korea).

Clinical trial results for aducanumab have been promising so far. It has shown potential to reduce the accumulation of amyloid plaque along with the ability to potentially slow cognitive decline associated with the illness, reported BioPharma Dive.

Results from two phase III studies are expected to be released in 2019 and 2020.

Also, Biogen restructured an agreement with Neurimmune, a biotech company that originally out-licensed the drug, so the potential royalty payment emerging from possible commercial sales of the drug was reduced. Neurimmune would instead receive a one-time $150 million payment from Biogen with the option of adding another $50 million payment if the royalty is reduced further.

Overall, both of these deals for Biogen amount to a $500 million commitment to its Alzheimer’s program, reported Endpoints News.


AbbVie made a foray into the neurological disease space with its own ambitious deal.

The biopharmaceutical company struck an agreement worth over $200 million with startup Alector to advance development of a series of drugs focusing on immuno-neurology.

This area of research explores how harnessing the power of the immune system could effectively attack devastating neurodegenerative disorders. The rationale is that immune deficiencies within the central nervous system play an integral role in the progression of neurodegeneration.

Here’s how this partnership breaks down.

Both companies agreed to research a portfolio of antibody targets with AbbVie having an option on global development and commercial rights to two targets.

Alector will be responsible for exploratory research, drug discovery, and development for lead programs all the way through the conclusion of proof-of-concept studies. AbbVie would then lead development and commercialization activities upon exercise of the option.

Both companies will co-fund development and commercialization efforts with the opportunity to equally share global profits when these candidates reach market.

Ultimately, Alector received $205 million upfront payment with the potential of a future equity investment of up to $20 million.