USA – AbbVie has expanded its neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative portfolio with the US$1 billion acquisition of Belgium-based Syndesi Therapeutics.

AbbVie will make an upfront payment of US$130 million to Syndesi shareholders as part of the deal, but could make additional payments of up to US$870 million if certain predetermined milestones are met.

AbbVie’s portfolio and pipeline are thin on brain drugs, particularly in the area of neurodegeneration. The pharmaceutical giant is taking steps to remedy that deficiency by striking a deal: the acquisition a UCB spinout that’s already reached the clinic with a drug that takes a new approach to brain disorders.

Backed by Novo Holdings, Syndesi launched in 2017 to develop novel Synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A (SV2A) modulators.

In 2018, the company licensed SDI-118, which had been discovered by UCB Biopharma, one of the organizations that helped launch Syndesi.

This would include the lead molecule SDI-118, which has potential to be used as a treatment for cognitive impairment and other symptoms associated with disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

SDI-118 is currently being evaluated to target nerve terminals to enhance synaptic efficiency. Synaptic dysfunction is believed to underlie the cognitive impairment seen in multiple neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.

AbbVie is well-known for producing a diverse range of products, including Humira, which is used to treat

The acquisition follows AbbVie’s merger with Ireland-headquartered Allergan in 2020, in one of world’s largest mergers in recent years, valued at approximately US$63 billion.

Expanding neuroscience portfolio

The acquisition will allow AbbVie to expand its neuroscience portfolio by gaining access to Syndesi’s drug candidates, and complement its ongoing neurodegenerative disease collaboration with Mission Therapeutics.

The acquisition follows AbbVie’s merger with Ireland-headquartered Allergan in 2020, in one of world’s largest mergers in recent years, valued at approximately US$63 billion.

Tom Hudson, AbbVie’s head of Research & Development and chief scientific officer, noted that there is a “major unmet need” for new therapeutics and treatments that can improve cognitive function in patients with hard-to-treat neurologic diseases.

Last year, Syndesi initiated dosing in the proof-of-principle study about eight months after results from two small Phase I studies showed the drug was safe and well-tolerated in trial participants.

The studies also included promising data in electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings of brain activity.

Syndesi said SDI-118 produced a “unique profile of changes in quantitative EEG relative frequency power,” which was consistent with a novel mechanism of action.

The company said that the data complemented the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) target engagement data that had previously been seen.

Last year, the two companies nominated two deubiquitinating enzyme (DUB) targets to advance as potential therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

AbbVie previously had an Alzheimer’s partnership with Voyager Therapeutics, but that partnership was dissolved in 2020.

The two companies initially hooked up in 2018 in a tau and alpha-synuclein vectorized antibody collaboration with a goal to develop vectorized antibodies against the tau protein.

Jonathan Savidge, chief executive officer of Syndesi, said the company has been impressed with AbbVie and its shared view of the potential of SDI-118 in a range of neurologic diseases.

I am delighted with the closing of this deal. It has been a pleasure to partner with our investors to investigate the potential of SDI-118 in early clinical studies. Now, as part of AbbVie, the program is well-positioned to move into later stages of clinical development,” Savidge said in a statement.

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