Novartis, UCB Take Aim at Parkinson’s Disease Under $1.65 Billion Collab

by Joy Lin
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Barely a few days after licensing a pulmonary fibrosis drug to Italian pharma Chiesi, UCB has struck a second deal with Swiss pharma giant Novartis. The collaboration this time approaches $1.65 billion in value and involves two drugs, a small molecule inhibitor and a monoclonal antibody, designed to treat Parkinson’s Disease (PD). 

“This partnership has the potential to be transformational for people living with Parkinson’s disease,” said Dhaval Patel, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at UCB, “as it will combine UCB’s expertise as a leader in the field of neurodegenerative disease with Novartis’ global capabilities and deep experience developing transformative, disease modifying treatments for a range of neurological conditions.”

Terms of the $1.65 Billion Collab 


The deal centers around two of UCB’s investigational drug candidates, UCB0599 and UCB7853. UCB0599 is an orally administered small molecule inhibitor that targets alpha-synuclein, a hallmark of PD, while UCB7853 is an anti-alpha-synuclein monoclonal antibody.

Under the deal, UCB and Novartis will jointly develop and fund global development of UCB0599, which is in Phase 2 trials. Novartis also gets an option to co-develop UCB7853 once its UCB-run Phase 1 study completes. 

Novartis will pay UCB $150 million upfront and close to $1.5 billion in milestones if regulatory and sales goals are met. UCB will lead commercial activities in Europe and Japan, while Novartis will be responsible for sales in the US and other countries. 

Alpha-Synuclein, an Evasive Target for PD


The misfolding of alpha-synuclein and toxic accumulation results in the death of neuronal cells, which contributes to PD. Reducing levels of this protein is thought to slow progression of PD. However, treatments targeting alpha-synuclein have given mixed results to date. 

Prior to partnering with UCB, Novartis had attempted to treat PD with Tasigna (nilotinib). Originally approved to treat leukemia, Tasigna was shown in a Georgetown University-sponsored Phase 2 study to reduce levels of alpha-synuclein and improved symptoms in patients with PD. 

Despite the promising results, a followup Phase 2 in 2019 by Northwestern University only confirmed Tasigna was safe to use but not clinically beneficial. The jury is still out on Tasigna, as extension data from the Georgetown study at 27 months appeared to show that higher doses (300mg) of Tasigna could still slow PD symptoms. 

Meanwhile, Roche and Prothena are attempting to crack PD with prasinezumab, another antibody that targets alpha-synuclein, despite revealing mixed Phase 2 results last year where the trial missed its primary endpoint. 

Another pair contending for PD treatments is AstraZeneca and Takeda. The two companies started way back in 2017 to co-develop an anti-alpha-synuclein antibody, MEDI1341. 

Other biotechs targeting alpha-synuclein include AC Immune and Inhibikase Therapeutics, while Biogen discontinued its candidate, cinpanemab, earlier this year after flopping in Phase 2. 

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