Yumanity Enters into $500 Million Neurodegenerative Disease Collaboration with Merck
June 24, 2020
Rare Daily Staff
Yumanity Therapeutics has entered into a strategic research collaboration and license agreement with Merck focused on accelerating the development of new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.
Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will gain exclusive rights to two novel Yumanity pipeline programs for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTLD). Yumanity and Merck will collaborate to advance the two preclinical programs during the research term, after which Merck has the right to continue clinical development and commercialization.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rare progressive neurodegenerative disease impacting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. ALS breaks down nerve cells, reducing muscle function and causing loss of muscle control. ALS can be traced to mutations in more than 25 different genes and is often caused by a combination of multiple sub-forms of the condition. Average life expectancy for people with ALS is just three years.
While ALS leads to the deterioration of motor neurons, FTLD leads to the degeneration of neurons in the frontal and temporal lobes. Currently, there are no cures to halt or reverse the progression of ALS or FTLD.
ALS and FTLD are part of a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders caused by mutations in the C9ORF72 gene that involve hundreds of additional repetitions of a six base pair sequence of DNA. The C9ORF72 mutation is linked to approximately one-third of cases of familial ALS. Currently, there are no therapies to halt or reverse the progression of ALS or FTLD.
Yumanity is focused on discovering disease-modifying therapies for patients with Parkinson’s, ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease by reversing the cellular phenotypes and disease pathologies caused by protein misfolding.
Under the collaboration agreement, Yumanity will receive an upfront payment and is eligible to receive milestone payments totaling approximately $500 million associated with the successful development of marketed products for pipeline programs, as well as royalties on net sales. Merck is also joining existing Yumanity investors by participating in a Series C round of financing.
“This alliance reflects our shared commitment to neurodegenerative diseases that continue to have high unmet need,” said Richard Peters, CEO of Yumanity.
Photos: Richard Peters, CEO of Yumanity
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