UK firm will remain intact as a ‘centre of excellence’ in pain R&D for Biogen

US biotech heavyweight Biogen Idec has agreed to buy UK pain specialist Covergence Pharmaceuticals in a deal worth up to $675 million (£445 million). The deal gives Biogen Idec access to a promising candidate for neuropathic pain, but also significant R&D expertise in pain and neurology.

Convergence’s biggest asset is a sodium channel blocking drug candidate, CNV1014802, which has shown promise in Phase II clinical trials for chronic pain in sciatica and trigeminal neuralgia. The company is developing other molecules for a variety of neuropathic pain conditions, some of which stem from the company’s founding as a spin-out from GlaxoSmithKline’s neuroscience division in 2010.

Ged Giblin, Covergence’s head of chemistry and preclinical development, explains that the programme emerged from genetic data on the Nav1.7 sodium channel. ‘We’ve made significant investment in understanding the genetics of the channel, and the way our drugs work in connection with that mutation,’ he says.

Biogen Idec appears to recognise and value that expertise, as it intends to leave the company’s UK base essentially intact as what Giblin calls a ‘centre of excellence in pain R&D’, led by existing chief scientific officer Simon Tate.