Amgen and Novartis partnering on a drug that could prevent Alzheimer’s

Thousand Oaks-based biotech giant Amgen Inc.

Thousand Oaks-based biotech giant Amgen Inc.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Thousand Oaks biotech firm Amgen Inc. is partnering with Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis to develop a drug that could slow or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The companies, which announced the agreement Tuesday, will combine separate efforts on drugs that attack BACE, an enzyme that produces clusters of proteins called plaques believed to cause the brain disorder.

Novartis was a step ahead of Amgen on the Alzheimer’s front, conducting clinical trials of an oral drug called CNP520. Amgen said it has “a number of preclinical candidates” in the Alzheimer’s field.


BACE inhibitors are the latest hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s, but are no sure thing. Eli Lilly dumped its BACE inhibitor during clinical trials in 2013 amid concern it could cause liver damage.

By partnering with Amgen, Novartis shares some of the risk as it moves through the lengthy, potentially problematic path toward regulatory approval.

Amgen will make undisclosed upfront and milestone payments to Novartis and initially cover “disproportional research and development costs,” followed by a 50/50 split of costs and profits.

Michael Yee, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said in a research note that he viewed the deal as a positive because Amgen needs to “do more deals and build its early/mid-stage pipeline.”

An estimated 44 million people globally and 5 million in the United States have Alzheimer’s, a debilitating brain disorder, or related dementia.

In addition to its clinical trials, Novartis has partnered with the Arizona-based Banner Alzheimer’s Institute on a study to test the effectiveness of its Alzheimer’s drugs on more than 1,300 healthy adults who have a genetic risk to develop the disease.


The agreement with Amgen separately calls for Novartis to receive commercial rights outside the United States, Canada and Japan for migraine drugs that Amgen is testing in clinical trials. Novartis would pay Amgen double-digit royalties on sales of the drugs.

Sean Harper, executive vice president of research and development for Amgen, said the partnership will allow the companies to join forces “on two important neuroscience programs where there remains high unmet medical need.”

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