Alongside our own R&D efforts, we are always seeking to forge partnerships that build on our science, allow us to go beyond our existing capabilities and further advance our focus on specific patient populations. We amplify our expertise in chemistry, biology and gene therapy by collaborating with other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, as well as academic and research organizations. 2020 saw several exciting developments in this regard.
For instance, UCB’s presence in the Boston area expanded significantly this April, when we announced the completion of our acquisition of Ra Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a clinical-stage biopharma company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ra Pharma is now a wholly owned subsidiary of UCB. The acquisition enhances our leadership in the development of solutions for myasthenia gravis, a chronic neuro-muscular disease, by adding the Phase 3 drug zilucoplan, a peptide inhibitor of complement component 5 (C5) currently in Phase 3, to the UCB pipeline alongside rozanolixizumab, UCB’s FcRn targeting antibody which is also in Phase 3. Zilucoplan is a novel investigational molecule which is also being evaluated as a treatment for other degenerative diseases.
This was followed in June by the acquisition of Engage Therapeutics, a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company developing Staccato® Alprazolam for the rapid termination of epileptic seizures. This product combines the Staccato® delivery technology with the established benzodiazepine alprazolam. UCB is currently developing a clinical program to investigate its use as a single-use epileptic seizure rescue therapy in the outpatient setting.
In a dynamic world with many new frontiers in science and technology, we are embracing the latest medical science. To that end, we also announced the acquisition of Handl Therapeutics BV, a rapidly growing and transformative gene therapy company based in Leuven, Belgium, as well as a new collaboration with Lacerta Therapeutics, a U.S.-based, clinical-stage gene therapy company. This will help us accelerate the realization of our ambitions in gene therapy, which has the potential to drive a fundamental change in how diseases are treated, by moving us from treatment to disease modification, and eventually, towards a cure.
We launched a collaboration with Roche to develop an antibody treatment for people living with Alzheimer’s disease, giving Roche and its subsidiary Genentech an exclusive, worldwide license to UCB’s bepranemab (UCB0107), an innovative antibody treatment for the disease. Roche and Genentech have deep and wide-ranging expertise, capacity and know-how in treating Alzheimer’s, and this collaboration may offer people living with the disease a new option for treatment.