• Swiss giant targets treatments for neurological conditions
  • Amgen to make upfront payment, milestones on Alzheimer's

Novartis AG said it formed a partnership with California biotechnology company Amgen Inc. to develop new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and migraines, the latest step in the Swiss drugmaker’s plan to build a portfolio of treatments for neurological illnesses.

Amgen will make an upfront payment and further amounts if Novartis’s experimental Alzheimer’s drug, CNP520, meets certain development targets, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said Tuesday in a statement, without disclosing financial terms of the deal. Amgen will pay a “disproportional” share of research and development costs for a period, after which the companies will split costs and any profits from the drug equally. Novartis will gain marketing rights to Amgen’s migraine drugs outside the U.S., Canada and Japan and will pay a “disproportional” share of R&D expenses for those treatments, Amgen said in a separate statement.

Novartis, the maker of the multiple sclerosis treatment Gilenya, has struck two deals in recent months to expand in the neurological field. The company bought Spinifex Pharmaceuticals Inc. in June for at least $200 million, adding a treatment for chronic pain, and last month agreed to pay GlaxoSmithKline Plc as much as $1 billion for the rights to an experimental multiple sclerosis drug.

Seeking a Partner

“The other area where we wanted to build out was in Alzheimer’s and migraine, two other big unmet needs,” Vas Narasimhan, Novartis’s head of development, said Tuesday. “We set out to find partners we thought we could develop a win-win relationship with, and really Amgen was that partner for us.”

The partnership with Amgen allows Novartis to share Alzheimer’s development costs in a field littered with drug failures, Narasimhan said.

“The trials are long, the endpoints are still in flux, and because of that a partner to risk-share was really attractive to us,” he said.

Novartis’s CNP520 is currently in early-stage human testing, while Amgen’s AMG 334 for migraine is being evaluated in several large late-stage tests and its AMG 301 migraine treatment is in early trials.

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