After shedding its lead asset in Angelman syndrome, Ovid Therapeutics has spent the past eight months figuring out its next steps. Now, the central nervous system disease-focused biotech is back with the first stage in that comeback: a deal to license a library of AstraZeneca’s preclinical candidates for epilepsy and other neuropathic conditions.
The deal includes the licensing of early-stage molecules that target the KCC2 transporter. The lead candidate is OV350, which has shown promise in resistant forms of epilepsy during preclinical testing. The epilepsy candidate will join Ovid’s other early-stage therapies in the indication including OV329, which will move into the clinic in the new year. The KCC2 transporter is believed to be important in seizure control.
Ovid will pay AstraZeneca an upfront fee of $5 million in cash plus $7.5 million worth of shares. The U.K. pharmaceutical giant could receive up to $8 million in development milestones and regulatory milestones of up to $45 million. If any of the therapies are ultimately approved, AstraZeneca could see $150 million in commercial milestones plus royalties.
Back in April, the biotech walked away from its lead candidate in Angelman syndrome after a phase 3 failure. At the time, CEO Jeremy Levin said the company had plenty of cash on hand from a deal with Takeda and that it planned to shop around for potential deals to bulk up the pipeline.
The AstraZeneca tie-up is the first in a series of deals that will help Ovid enhance its pipeline, a company spokesperson said. The biotech also stands to benefit from the Big Pharma’s expertise and research capabilities through the partnership, the spokesperson added.
AstraZeneca is not completely letting go of its library; the company will have right of first negotiation to opt-in with Ovid for a strategic collaboration.
AstraZeneca developed the KCC2 transporter molecules in a partnership with the Tufts Laboratory for Basic and Translational Neuroscience Research. Ovid will continue working with with the scientists behind the candidates: Stephen Moss, Ph.D.; Jamie Maguire, Ph.D.; and Aaron Goldman, Ph.D.
Licensing candidates from Big Pharma is part of Ovid’s playbook, Levin told Fierce Biotech back in April. He teased that a number of larger companies had expressed interest in farming out assets they’ve struggled to develop for difficult CNS disorders.