As Eli Lilly’s Kisunla (donanemab) enters the Alzheimer’s treatment space, its leading competitor Biogen is undergoing therapy diversification after completing its $1.15bn acquisition of Human Immunology Biosciences (HI-Bio).

The deal, which was agreed upon in May this year and includes $650m in milestone payments, sees Biogen bolster its pipeline with US-based HI-Bio’s anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody candidate felzartamab.

Biogen’s head of development Priya Singhal said the company is “very excited” about the addition of felzartamab to its rosters in a 2 July press release, adding that Biogen will advance the candidate to Phase III now the transaction is complete.

Felzartamab has already demonstrated positive Phase II data in a range of immune-mediated diseases, including IgA nephropathy (IgAN), antibody-mediated rejection (AMR), and primary membranous nephropathy (PMN). The Phase III development plans are for all three diseases, according to Biogen.

Felzartamab was originally developed by MorphoSys as a possible competitor to Johnson & Johnson and Genmab’s multiple myeloma drug Darzalex (daratumumab). After a short stint with Celgene in 2013, the rights for the antibody settled with HI-Bio who licensed it for development outside China in 2022.

Biogen is known for its neuroscience focus, having co-developed the next-generation Alzheimer’s treatment Leqembi (lecanemab-irmb) with Eisai. The drug is predicted to see US sales of $4.6bn by 2030, according to GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Centre.

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In a previous earnings call, Biogen’s CEO Chris Viehbacher stated the importance of diversifying therapeutic scopes, adding that neuroscience is a “high-risk area.” Eli Lilly has now consolidated that – at least in the Alzheimer’s space – having secured US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval yesterday [2 July] for Leqembi rival Kisunla.

Biogen’s acquisition of HI-Bio’s “pipeline-in-a-product” will expand the former company’s immunology presence. As per a press release announcing the agreement in May, Biogen will keep employees from HI-Bio and establish a team in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the time, Singhal stated that felzartamab is a “strategic addition to the Biogen portfolio” and “will augment [its] pipeline and build on [its] expertise in immunology”.