Shares of Voyager Therapeutics (NASDAQ: VYGR) were skyrocketing 21.7% higher as of 11:22 a.m. EST on Friday. The small biotech announced a collaboration with AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV) to develop vectorized antibodies to treat Parkinson's disease and other diseases characterized by the abnormal accumulation of misfolded alpha-synuclein protein.
Under the terms of the deal, Voyager will receive $65 million up front and up to $245 million in preclinical and phase 1 option payments. Voyager also stands to receive potential development, regulatory, and commercial milestone payments down the road of up to $728 million as well as royalties on sales of any approved drugs resulting from the collaboration.
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The most tangible impact of Voyager's deal with AbbVie is a nice infusion of cash. Voyager continues to lose more than $20 million each quarter. Expenses are likely to rise as the company advances its preclinical candidates into early-stage clinical studies.
A partnership with a major drugmaker like AbbVie also helps boost investors' enthusiasm about the prospects for Voyager's experimental gene therapies. AbbVie already has an approved drug for treating Parkinson's disease, Duodopa. The big pharma company also has an experimental Parkinson's disease drug, ABBV-951, in phase 1 testing.
This is the second significant deal for Voyager Therapeutics in recent weeks. On Jan. 29, 2019, the company announced that it was licensing four gene-therapy programs to Neurocrine Biosciences for $165 million up front and up to $1.7 billion in potential milestone payments.
For Voyager to make the most of its collaboration with AbbVie, it will have to deliver the goods. The small biotech will conduct research and preclinical development. If all goes well, AbbVie has the option to select one or more vectorized antibodies to move into phase 1 clinical studies. This would open the door for Voyager to receive option payments from AbbVie.
If phase 1 testing is successful, AbbVie then has an option to license the selected program for continued clinical development and future global commercialization. And that's when the big money for Voyager could start rolling in.
It's still really early, though. The primary thing for investors to watch with Voyager Therapeutics in the immediate future is the biotech's Q4 update, scheduled for Feb. 26, 2019.
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