Biogen Idec Takes Aim at New Parkinson’s Paradigm

1/5/09Follow @xconomy

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pursuing this concept. Kenilworth, NJ-based Schering-Plough (NYSE: SGP) recently released positive results from a mid-stage clinical trial that showed its candidate, preladenant, could keep the L-dopa from wearing off, Papapetropoulos says. Swiss-based pharmaceutical giant Roche also has a candidate in this class of treatment, he says.

The drug, BIIB-014, which Biogen in-licensed from U.K.-based Vernalis in 2005, is now being tested in a pair of mid-stage clinical trials. The first study involves about 40 patients with early-stage Parkinson’s taking the drug by itself in a variety of doses, compared with a placebo. The second study involves about 70 patients with later-stages forms of Parkinson’s who took the Biogen candidate in a couple different doses in tandem with L-dopa, and will compare their performance with patients who got a placebo. Preliminary results from both studies should be available in the first quarter, says Biogen spokeswoman Shannon Altimari.

Critical work on this program on the medical side is happening at Biogen’s offices in Cambridge, while important toxicology work in animals is being done in San Diego, Papapetropoulos says. This is the only Parkinson’s candidate in the Biogen clinical trial pipeline, although the company has developed a backup compound to hit this same target, he says.

Papapetropoulos didn’t try to overpromise what this compound can do, other than to say, “We will be expecting some efficacy trends to be present.” Biogen highlighted a 30-60 minute improvement in maintaining the effective control of Parkinson’s without involuntary movements, in a meeting last month with analyst Christopher James of Rodman & Renshaw. James noted that the company emphasized its R&D pipeline candidates for multiple sclerosis and heart failure, as well as the Parkinson’s program.

Papapetropoulos was recovering from a case of laryngitis when we spoke, and after politely answering all my questions, he made sure to get the last word in our conversation. “I’d really like to end on a note of optimism,” he said.

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