Roche’s Genentech returns Alzheimer’s assets to AC Immune, cutting 18-year tie to the biotech

Roche’s Genentech returns Alzheimer’s assets to AC Immune, cutting 18-year tie to the biotech

Genentech is walking away from an 18-year relationship with AC Immune, handing back global rights to a pair of Alzheimer’s disease drug candidates after suffering a series of setbacks in the clinic.

The molecules returning to AC Immune are crenezumab and semorinemab, antibodies that respectively target amyloid beta and tau. Hopes for the drug candidates have faded in recent years as the failures of phase 2 and 3 clinical trials have suggested they are unlikely to play a role in the Alzheimer’s renaissance, but Genentech and parent company Roche retained their rights to the assets until now.

AC Immune’s internal focus currently lies elsewhere, with the biotech advancing vaccine candidates aimed at amyloid beta and alpha-synuclein through the clinic, but it sees value in regaining the rights to the antibodies, as CEO Andrea Pfeifer explained in a statement.

“Regaining the global rights to crenezumab, semorinemab and the intellectual property surrounding these targets may offer alternative routes to new growth opportunities, including combination therapies,” Pfeifer said. “We are confident that, with full ownership and the learnings from these programs, they could be enhanced using AC Immune’s proprietary next-generation technologies.”

Genentech struck a licensing agreement for crenezumab in 2006, back before Roche took full control of the big biotech. AC Immune pocketed $25 million upfront and a further $40 million in milestones but the paydays dried up as crenezumab floundered in late-phase development, with all of the $65 million changing hands before 2017. The asset failed phase 2 and 3 clinical trials in 2019 and 2022.

A second deal, for anti-tau antibodies, followed in 2012. That pact funneled 59 million Swiss francs ($68 million) into AC Immune’s bank account but the program entered choppy waters in 2020 when a phase 2 trial in early Alzheimer’s missed its primary endpoint. The next year a second phase 2 trial delivered a split result, hitting one co-primary endpoint but missing the other. Last year, AC Immune said (PDF) more data were due in the fourth quarter of 2023.

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