Abbvie and Voyager Are Collaborating on Antibody-based Gene Therapies for Alzheimer’s

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by Alice Melão |

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AbbVie and Voyager Therapeutics are teaming up to develop antibody-based gene therapies for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders.

The collaboration includes gene therapies against the harmful tau protein in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. An antibody is a protein the immune system generates to fight harmful substances. Companies can produce antibodies in a laboratory as treatments for diseases.

Preventing tau build-ups in the brain could be a way to treat the symptoms and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. But current biologic therapies can deliver only small amounts of drugs directly into the brain.

This collaboration will combine AbbVie’s expertise in antibody development and Voyager’s expertise in gene therapy delivery.

Voyager’s delivery system is harmless viruses. They carry the genetic instructions to produce antibodies against tau protein. And they deliver them exactly where needed: the brain.

“AbbVie is focused on developing treatments to meet the crushing public health crisis presented by Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases,” Jim Sullivan, the company’s vice president of pharmaceutical discovery, said in a press release. “Voyager’s vectorized [virus-based] antibody platform presents an innovative approach to addressing challenges in treating neurological disorders associated with the administration of biologic therapies.

“This collaboration has the potential to address the needs of patients who live with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy and frontotemporal dementia,” Sullivan added.

Under the collaboration, Voyager will develop antibodies targeting tau protein, and their  viral delivery system. It will test them in preclinical-trial studies and in Phase 1 trials.

AbbVie will select one or more of the antibodies for trials that it conducts beyond the Phase 1 stage. It will also be in charge of global commercialization of any therapies that regulators approve.

“Combining AbbVie’s leadership and deep expertise in monoclonal antibody discovery, development and commercialization and our ability to vectorize monoclonal antibodies is a natural fit,” said Steven Paul, Voyager’s president and CEO. “We are very pleased to collaborate with AbbVie to advance this strategy towards the clinic [clinical trials] in an effort to bring innovative treatments to patients.”