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Vernalis and Biogen Idec to collaborate on research for Parkinson's disease

24 June 2004

  • Joint collaboration to boost Parkinson’s disease research
  • Vernalis to receive immediate $10 million licence fee
  • Biogen Idec to make initial investment of $6 million in new Vernalis shares


Vernalis plc (LSE: VER, Nasdaq: VNLS) and Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB) today announce that they have entered into an agreement to advance research into Vernalis’ adenosine A2A receptor antagonist program, which targets Parkinson’s disease and other central nervous system disorders.

Under the agreement, Biogen Idec receives exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize Vernalis' lead compound, V2006, which recently completed an initial Phase I clinical study in healthy volunteers. In addition, Biogen Idec has the right to develop one back-up compound to V2006 and receives option rights over Vernalis' A2A antagonist research program. Initially, the collaboration will focus on completing the Phase I program for V2006, with the goal to begin Phase II proof of concept studies of V2006 in Parkinson’s disease patients in 2005.

Biogen Idec will pay Vernalis an initial license fee of $10 million, a series of further payments if program milestones are met, and royalties on commercial sales of collaboration products. Biogen Idec will make an immediate investment of $6 million through subscription for 6,218,487 new Vernalis ordinary shares, representing 4.19 percent of Vernalis’ enlarged issued share capital, at a price of 53 pence per share and has committed to purchase an additional $4 million in the event of a future Vernalis financing. Excluding royalties, total potential payments to Vernalis could exceed $100 million. Biogen Idec will fund future development under the collaboration, and Vernalis will retain an option to co-promote collaboration products in the United States.

“This is an important program for Vernalis, and we are delighted to ave attracted a partner of Biogen Idec’s calibre to help us take it forward,” said Simon Sturge, chief executive officer, Vernalis. “Parkinson’s disease can be a very difficult and debilitating condition. Today’s announcement is a valuable endorsement of our A2A program, and fulfills our promise to announce a strong product collaboration in the second quarter.”

James Mullen, president and chief executive officer of Biogen Idec, added, “We look forward to applying the expertise we have developed with our neurology franchise to V2006, a promising product that will bolster our growing small molecule portfolio. In addition, this partnership brings us one step closer to our corporate goal to in-license 50 percent of our pipeline by 2010.”

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive movement disorder that affects approximately one percent of the population over the age of 65, or about 1.5 million people in the United States. Common symptoms of the disease include stiffening of the muscles, difficulty in moving, tremors and shaking. Parkinson’s is caused by nerve degeneration and cell death in the brain, leading to the loss of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in the control of voluntary movement.

Most conventional treatments for Parkinson’s disease are based on the replacement or enhancement of dopamine in the brain. These treatments are generally effective in the short term, but efficacy tends to diminish over time and the emergence of side effects increases the level of disability. Vernalis’ adenosine A2A receptor antagonist program is designed to restore the imbalance of neurotransmitters caused by the loss of dopamine.

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Enquiries:

Vernalis plc
Simon Sturge, Chief Executive Officer
Tony Weir, Chief Financial Officer
+44 (0)118 977 3133

Brunswick Group (for analyst, financial media enquiries)
Jon Coles; Wendel Carson
+44 (0)20 7404 5959

Safe Harbour statement: this news release may contain forward-looking statements that reflect the Company's current expectations regarding future events, including the clinical development and regulatory clearance of the Company's products, including that of frovatriptan for menstrually-associated migraine, the Company's ability to find partners for the development and commercialisation of its products, including a new commercialisation partner (or partners) for frovatriptan, as well as the terms of such partnership(s), the projected benefits of reacquiring the rights to frovatriptan in North America and/or any new partnership arrangement(s) on the Company's liquidity and results of operations, as well as the Company's working capital requirements and future capital raising activities. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties. Actual events could differ materially from those projected herein and depend on a number of factors, including the success of the Company's research strategies, the applicability of the discoveries made therein, and the successful and timely completion of clinical studies, including with respect to frovatriptan and the Company's other products, the uncertainties related to the regulatory process, the ability of the Company to identify and agree beneficial terms with suitable partners for the commercialisation and/or development of frovatriptan and other products, as well as the achievement of expected synergies from such transactions, the acceptance of frovatriptan and other products by consumers and medical professionals, the ability of the Company to obtain additional financing for its operations and the market conditions affecting the availability and terms of such financing, the successful integration of completed mergers and acquisitions and achievement of expected synergies from such transactions, and the ability of the Company to identify and consummate suitable strategic and business combination transactions and the risks described in our most recent annual report on Form 20-F filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (File No 0-20104).

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