Synosia Therapeutics made some waves in biotech today with a couple of deals that reflect its progress in developing new therapies for Parkinson’s disease.
The company, with offices in South San Francisco and Basel, Switzerland, said today it has formed a partnership with Belgium-based UCB that could generate as much as $725 million in milestone payments for development of neurology drugs. Synosia also has pulled in a $30 million venture investment, with $20 million coming from UCB, and the rest from its existing backers—Versant Ventures, 5AM Ventures, Novo A/S, Aravis Venture, Investor Growth Capital, and Swiss Helvetia Fund.
The partnership provides UCB the exclusive worldwide rights to develop Synosia compound called SNY-115, and widespread (non-orphan) applications of a second dru, SYN-118. The first drug candidate, which Synosia obtained from Roche three years ago, is designed to work as an oral pill with the rare ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Both drugs are currently in mid-stage clinical trials as treatments for Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease in which causes a progressive loss of motor control and other symptoms. Many patients with Parkinson’s take levodopa (L-dopa) to relieve symptoms, although the effect of that drug—a precursor of a neurotransmitter called dopamine that’s lacking in Parkinson’s patients’ brains—wears off over time. An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from Parkinson’s, and about 50,000 people are diagnosed with it each year.
Synosia says that its lead drug, SYN-115, is designed to enhance the effect of L-dopa and dopamine stimulators without triggering involuntary movements. Synosia says on its website that it has completed a Phase IIa study in Parkinson’s patients, which showed that patients who took its lead drug candidate had “functional activity in relevant regions of the brain” when researchers monitored them with functional MRI scans. Researchers also reported positive effects on clinical measurements of motor function and cognition, the company said. The drug has now advanced into a more rigorous Phase IIb study, Synosia says.
Synosia will manage development of both its drug candidates through Phase II clinical development, while UCB will take responsibility for the third and final stage of clinical trials usually needed for regulatory approval. UCB will also handle the commercialization phase, if the drugs get that far.
“UCB is an ideal partner for us given their global capabilities and presence in the field of neurology and their demonstrated ability to form innovative and effective partnerships,” said Ian Massey, CEO of Synosia Therapeutics, in a statement.