Biogen collaboration with Sage Therapeutics shows promise for novel MDD treatment

Following the news that Biogen have entered into a licensing agreement with Sage Therapeutics to jointly develop and commercialize zuranolone (SAGE-217) and SAGE-324;

Philippa Salter, Neurology Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view:

“This licensing deal will allow Biogen to expand its already strong neurology portfolio, while Sage Therapeutics will be able to leverage Biogen’s experience in bringing drugs to the neurology market as it looks to develop and commercialize its pipeline products.

“By partnering with Biogen, there is potential for zuranolone, a novel treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD), to reach larger neurology populations – providing it is approved – as it is highly complementary to several of the disease areas Biogen is already involved in, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal muscular atrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

“It is expected that the companies will focus initially on zuranolone, which has several ongoing Phase III trials. SAGE-324, on the other hand, is still in Phase IIa development. GlobalData expects zuranolone to launch in the US in 2022, with global sales of $1.3bn by 2026.

“A key unmet need in the MDD market is for drugs with a rapid onset of action, as currently available products show antidepressant effects only after a few weeks of treatment. Zuranolone’s approval as a rapid-acting, short course treatment would be a welcome and much needed addition to the MDD treatment paradigm.

“However, despite its novel mechanism of action, it is unlikely that zuranolone would become a first-line therapy for MDD immediately. The current first-line therapy options, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), have been on the market for many years and are well entrenched in the treatment paradigm for MDD. Furthermore, the majority of SSRIs and SNRIs have cheap generic versions available, meaning it is likely they will remain the preferred first-choice option over a more expensive newer drug.”

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