2020-07-31| R&D

UCB Joins Forces with Roche to Develop Antibody Treatment for Alzheimer’s

by Tulip Chakraborty
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By T. Chakraborty, Ph.D.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia or, in simpler terms, loss of memory with other cognitive abilities. AD has been touted as the sixth leading cause of death in the US, with a high mortality rate in seniors above 65 years. Though deaths from heart diseases have reduced by approximately 8% between the period of 2000-2018, it has increased by a whopping 146% in the case of AD.

While symptomatic therapies exist, AD still lacks a disease modifying drug or therapy, which is why pharmaceutical companies are actively researching for a remedy. On July 29th, UCB, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Belgium, announced an agreement with Roche and Genentech to enter into a global licensing agreement for the development and commercialization of UCB0107, a proprietary monoclonal antibody treatment to combat AD.



AD is pathologically characterized by the formation of neurofibrillary tangles and plaques. One of the major proteins involved in the formation of tangles in the cytoskeletal protein called “tau.” Aggregation of tau is not only prevalent in AD but also found in a class of disease termed as tauopathies. The formation of tau tangles in neurons leads to neuronal death. Hence, targeting this protein has been a disease modifying strategy which pharmaceutical companies have ventured into. UCB0107 is a recombinant fully-humanized monoclonal antibody against tau, which is touted as a potential treatment for tauopathies including progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and AD.

Roche and Genentech will commercialize the drug worldwide, and UCB will get an upfront payment of $120 million. A proof-of-concept study will be performed by UCB, following which Genentech can progress with the clinical development of the drug. UCB will be eligible to receive anywhere close to $2 billion from Genentech once the drug gets approved and meets clinical and sales milestones.

“We are excited that Roche and Genentech, with their deep and wide-ranging expertise, capacity and know-how in Alzheimer’s Disease, will collaborate with UCB on UCB0107 with a shared ambition to offer people living with Alzheimer’s Disease a new treatment option”, said Charl van Zyl, Executive Vice President of UCB and Head of Neurology.

“Our science-driven, patient-centric development approach, and leading experience in neurological diseases provides a uniquely holistic view towards the unmet needs and the potential for an effective anti-Tau antibody in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease and progressive supranuclear palsy. In-line with our ongoing and longstanding commitment to the neurodegeneration community, this partnership represents an important step in the potential development of this exciting new medicine.”

James Sabry, Global Head of Roche Pharma Partnering, added, “In Alzheimer’s Disease, we are continuing to explore new molecules that address the key pathways of this complex disease. We are pleased to embark on this journey together with UCB to help expand our efforts on tau. Our commitment remains strong on exploring multiple approaches with the hope that our research and development, including this collaboration with UCB, will lead to a disease-modifying medicine that could positively impact millions of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.”


Other Tau Targeting Treatments

Biogen is known for its amyloid-beta (A ) targeting recombinant monoclonal antibody, Aducanumab. Last year, it bought IONIS-MAPTRx, a tau-targeting antisense treatment from Ionis Pharmaceuticals, for $45 million. IONIS-MAPTRx is currently evaluated in Phase 1 trials. Janssen Pharmaceuticals have initiated clinical trials with their anti-tau antibody JNJ-6373365 as a potential treatment for AD. Moreover, multiple tau immunotherapies are being developed and are entering clinical trials. Lundbeck, a Danish-based pharmaceutical company, is developing anti-tau antibodies, which targets both the endogenous as well as the more pathogenic phosphorylated form of tau.

Editor: Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D.



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