Five months after being cleared for clinical trials, the global licence for Prothena’s neurodegenerative disease treatment candidate PRX019 has been picked up by Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) for $80m.

The deal for the asset also includes an additional $617.5m in additional development, regulatory, and sales milestone-related payments, as well as royalties, as per a 28 May press release by Prothena.

The two companies have neither disclosed the modality of PRX019 nor the intended indication within the neurodegenerative disease space.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greenlit the drug for use in clinical trials in December 2023, with Ireland-based Prothena saying it now plans to initiate a Phase I clinical trial with the drug by the end of this year.

BMS’ Neuroscience Thematic Research Center head Richard Hargreaves said: “Through our partnership with Prothena, we have identified and advanced PRX019 as a potential disease-modifying treatment option for patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.”

Hargreaves said that asset adds to BMS’ “growing neuroscience pipeline.”

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The licence deal for PRX019 is not the first time BMS and Prothena have worked together. BMS bought the US licence for Prothena’s PRX-005 for $80m in June 2021. This was followed by a worldwide licence for the same drug for $55m in October 2023. The candidate, now called BMS-986446, is in a Phase II trial for Alzheimer’s disease.

BMS made no secret of its neuroscience push when it acquired drugmaker Karuna Therapeutics for a colossal $14bn in March. With the deal, BMS acquired Karuna’s schizophrenia drug-in-waiting KarXT. Also transferred to BMS’ pipeline were candidates for Alzheimer’s-related psychosis and mood disorders.

The upfront payments in the latest deal will be important for Prothena, who reported a net loss of $147m for the full year of 2023, more than the $116.9m loss it incurred in 2022. The biotech cited higher R&D and G&A expenses in 2023 compared to the previous year.

Prothena’s most advanced candidate is monoclonal antibody, birtamimab, is currently in a Phase III clinical trial for the treatment of AL amyloidosis. The therapy has been awarded FDA orphan drug status and fast track designation.