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Allergan, Eying More Neurodegenerative Drugs, Gets Right to Buy LTI

Xconomy Boston — 

Allergan now has the right to acquire Lysosomal Therapeutics, a Cambridge, MA-based drug developer for Parkinson’s disease seeking to exploit the link between neurodegeneration and a family of rare genetic disorders.

The Dublin-based pharmaceutical giant purchased an option right to acquire Lysosomal Therapeutics (LTI) after LTI completes a Phase 1b trial for its lead drug, LTI-291. Allergan announced today that it is giving LTI an upfront payment for research and development, though the companies didn’t release specific financial terms of the deal. Both companies are going to oversee the development of the drug.

Meanwhile, Allergan also announced it has gained worldwide rights to Assembly Biosciences’ microbiome gastrointestinal development programs. Allergan is paying Indianapolis-based Assembly $50 million upfront for worldwide rights to develop and commercialize preclinical compounds for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The deal also will include two other compounds for irritable bowl syndromes, to be later identified by Assembly.

With LTI-291, LTI is aiming to stimulate an enzyme called glucocerebrosidase (GCase) in the brain. About 5 to 10 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease have a genetic mutation in a gene called GBA1, and the activity of GCase is reduced when those mutations occur, LTI says. Patients with that mutation have a more rapid progression of the disease, and LTI says it hopes its treatment can have some sort of impact on the disease’s progression. LTI expects to start Phase 1 studies of LTI-291 in mid-2017 and to complete them in 2018, CEO Kees Been wrote in an e-mail.

As Xconomy reported in early 2015, when LTI raised a $20 million Series A round, the company’s founding explored the underlying connection between the rare Gaucher disease and Parkinson’s disease. Atlas Ventures led both the Series A and a $5 million seed round. Former Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer with three other Genzyme alumni were cofounders, along with scientific founder Dmitri Krainc and Been, the CEO.

Gaucher is a hereditary disease caused by a deficiency in GCase, Xconomy’s Alex Lash reported. Genzyme pioneered therapies that extended the lives of Gaucher patients, whose physicians started noticing that the patients had a greater than normal incidence of Parkinson’s. That led to formal studies of GCase and a protein that misfolds in the brains of Parkinson’s patients, a field that LTI co-founder Krainc is a leader in, Lash reported.

If all goes as planned and Allergan exercises its option to acquire LTI, it will be the company’s first entry into Parkinson’s disease. Allergan noted that it would fit in well with the company’s other businesses focused on neurodegeneration and movement disorders.

The company has been a busy acquirer this year, including other companies focused on neurodegeneration, such as Chase Pharmaceuticals, a Washington, DC-based biotech with a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Notably, Allergan paid $2.9 billion for LifeCell, the regenerative medicine division of San Antonio, TX, company Acelity, in December. Various other acquisitions followed Allergan’s failed attempt to merge with Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) for some $160 billion.