AbbVie Bolsters Neuro Platform with $1B Syndesi Buy

AbbVie has bolstered its neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative portfolio with the acquisition of Belgium-based Syndesi Therapeutics in a deal valued at up to $1 billion.

With an upfront payment of $130 million, AbbVie gains Syndesi’s portfolio of novel modulators of the synaptic vesicle protein 2A (SV2A), including its lead molecule SDI-118. SV2A plays a central role in synaptic transmission, the communication between neurons in the brain. Improved regulation of SV2A could play a role in approaching treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, major depressive disorder and other disorders with cognitive impairment.

Tom Hudson, AbbVie’s head of R&D and chief scientific officer, noted that there is a “major unmet need” for new therapeutics and treatments that can improve cognitive function in patients with hard-to-treat neurologic diseases. Through the acquisition of Syndesi, AbbVie hopes to advance the research of the first-in-class SDI-118 for the treatment of cognitive impairment associated with neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, Hudson said in a statement.

A small molecule, SDI-118, is currently in Phase Ib studies. In the study, the asset targets nerve terminals to enhance synaptic efficiency. In its announcement, AbbVie said that synaptic dysfunction is believed to be an underlying issue in cognitive impairment that is associated with multiple disorders.

Last year, Syndesi initiated dosing in the proof-of-principle study about eight months after results from two small Phase I studies showed the drug was safe and well-tolerated in trial participants. The studies also included promising data in electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings of brain activity.

Syndesi said SDI-118 produced a “unique profile of changes in quantitative EEG relative frequency power,” which was consistent with a novel mechanism of action. The company said that the data complemented the PET target engagement data that had previously been seen.

Jonathan Savidge, chief executive officer of Syndesi, said the company has been impressed with AbbVie and its shared view of the potential of SDI-118 in a range of neurologic diseases.

“I am delighted with the closing of this deal. It has been a pleasure to partner with our investors to investigate the potential of SDI-118 in early clinical studies. Now, as part of AbbVie, the program is well-positioned to move into later stages of clinical development,” Savidge said in a statement.

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Under terms of the deal, AbbVie forked over $130 million. The remaining $870 million in the back-end heavy deal will be paid to Syndesi shareholders based on the achievement of certain established milestones.

Backed by Novo Holdings, Syndesi launched in 2017 to develop novel SV2A modulators. In 2018, the company licensed SDI-118, which had been discovered by UCB Biopharma SRL, one of the organizations that helped launch Syndesi.

For AbbVie, the acquisition of Syndesi is expected to complement its ongoing neurodegenerative disease collaboration with Mission Therapeutics. Last fall, the two companies nominated two deubiquitinating enzyme (DUB) targets to advance as potential therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The company previously had an Alzheimer’s partnership with Voyager Therapeutics, but that partnership was dissolved in 2020. The two companies initially hooked up in 2018 in a tau and alpha-synuclein vectorized antibody collaboration with a goal to develop vectorized antibodies against the tau protein.

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