Biogen has acquired an exclusive option to TMS’ Phase II acute stroke candidate TMS-007 and backup compounds through a deal that could generate up to $357 million-plus for the Japanese biotech and is intended to reinforce the buyer’s commitment to stroke drugs by adding a potentially long-acting treatment to its acute neurology portfolio.

TMS-007 is a small-molecule plasminogen activator with a novel mechanism of action associated with breaking down blood clots, as well as an apparent ability to inhibit local inflammation at the site of thrombosis. Biogen reasons that the combination could position TMS-007 as a best-in-class thrombolytic for patients with acute ischemic stroke (AIS), with the potential for a more extended treatment window than current thrombolytic agents.

TMS-007 is now under study in Japan in a Phase IIa trial (JapicCTI-183842) in which the first patient was enrolled in December 2017 and dosed in February. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study is designed to investigate the safety and efficacy of a single IV administration of TMS-007 in approximately 60 to 90 patients with AIS up to 12 hours after stroke onset.

In a Phase I study (JapicCTI-142654) completed in 2015, TMS-007 has shown an acceptable safety profile and has also reduced the area of dead tissue resulting from failure of blood supply or infarct volume in experimental rodent and primate embolic and thrombotic stroke models.

Biogen has agreed to pay TMS $4 million upfront, $18 million upon exercising the exclusive option, and up to $335 million in payments tied to achieving development and commercialization milestones, plus royalties.

Based in Fuchu-shi, Tokyo, TMS is a privately held biotech that was founded in 2005 to develop therapeutics based on novel discoveries to modulate the fibrinolytic system. Those discoveries were identified by a team of scientists at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) led by Keiji Hasumi, Ph.D., who serves as the company’s CEO.

Complementing Phase III-Ready Stroke Candidate

Michael Ehlers, M.D., Ph.D., Biogen EVP, research and development, said in a statement that TMS-007 complemented the company’s broader efforts in stroke, led by its Phase III-ready candidate BIIB093 (glibenclamide IV), designed to target prevention and treatment of edema in one of the most severe types of stroke, large hemispheric infarction (LHI).

Biogen plans a Phase III study assessing BIIB093 in severe cerebral edema following LHI (CHARM; NCT02864953). The study had yet to recruit patients as of March 22, the date of the most recent update on

According to Biogen, clinical proof-of-concept studies have shown the potential of BIIB093 to reduce brain swelling, disability, and the risk of death in LHI patients. Preclinical studies have shown BIIB093 to block SUR1-TRPM4 channels that mediate stroke related brain swelling.

“By growing our acute neurology portfolio, we aim to make new advances in a disease that in the past decades has seen limited therapeutic innovation,” Dr. Ehlers stated.

During Biogen’s most recent conference call with analysts on April 24, CEO Michel Vounatsos said BIIB093 is one of several late-stage candidates Biogen hopes to launch in the early 2020s, while CFO Jeff Capello said the company was committed to pipeline growth.

“Our premium is on adding to the pipeline, given our commercial footprint and our manufacturing footprint, and trying to bring in assets that are closer to being market ready. So there's certainly a preference to kind of look at those types of transactions,” Capello said. “As we go along, we'll continue to add to the pipeline with mid-stage assets and lower-stage assets where they fill in.”

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