BMS Pays Combined $95M to Evotec, Prothena for Neuro-Focused Options

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Bristol Myers Squibb is investing $95 million to bolster its neurodegenerative pipeline, picking up exclusive worldwide commercial rights to an anti-tau antibody from Prothena and global rights for selected neurodegeneration programs developed in collaboration with Evotec.

BMS will pay Prothena $55 million upfront for worldwide rights to PRX005, an anti-tau antibody that targets an area within the microtubule binding region (MTBR) region to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The tri-epitopic antibody specifically binds to the R1, R2 and R3 repeats within the MTBR of tau and targets both 3R and 4R tau isoforms, according to Prothena’s press release.

Prothena reported topline results from a Phase I trial of PRX005 in January, showing that the drug was “generally safe and well tolerated.” The Phase I multiple ascending dose portion of the trial in healthy volunteers and Alzheimer’s patients is ongoing, with topline results expected by the end of this year.

The new license—which follows BMS’ $80 million opt-in for exclusive U.S. rights in 2021—is part of a broader deal that could net Prothena a potential $2.2 billion when all regulatory and commercial milestones are reached.

PRX005 “has the potential to provide a meaningful disease-modifying treatment option for the millions of people that suffer from Alzheimer’s disease,” Richard Hargreaves, senior vice president and head of BMS’ Neuroscience Thematic Research Center, said in a statement, calling the antibody a key component of the company’s commitment to Alzheimer’s and its neuroscience portfolio.

Competition could be emerging between BMS and Eisai in the tau space. With Leqembi (lecanemab) now on the market, the Japanese pharma will focus, in part, on its own anti-MTBR asset, E2814, which is currently being tested in a Phase II/III trial that uses lecanemab as a base therapy. The trial is being conducted in collaboration with Washington University’s Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network Trials Unit.

BMS followed Monday’s news about Prothena with Tuesday’s announcement that it has exercised its option for exclusive global rights to selected late-stage discovery programs co-developed with Evotec as part of a neurodegeneration partnership struck in 2016.

The deal, initially inked with Celgene—which BMS acquired in 2019—is based on Evotec’s proprietary pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) platform, which enables systematic drug screening in patient-derived disease models. The initial deal was broad, with focus areas including Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

BMS and Evotec remained mum on the details, only saying in their press release that the license covers an “undisclosed number of programs” that were “rapidly developed and progressed” using Evotec’s precision medicine platforms.

Evotec receives a $40 million payment and remains eligible for performance milestone payments and tiered royalties up to low double-digit percentages on sales of potential products, according to the press release. 

Heather McKenzie is a senior editor at BioSpace, focusing on neuroscience, oncology and gene therapy. You can reach her at Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @chicat08.

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