Catalyst Biosciences has agreed to sell to Attenua three oral neuronal nicotinic receptor (NNR) candidates in a deal that could generate up to $106 million plus for Catalyst.

The three candidates were being developed by Targacept before it merged with Catalyst last year. Catalyst said it opted not to develop the candidates because it focuses on two other therapeutic areas—hemostasis, including hemophilia and surgical bleeding, and inflammation, including prevention of delayed graft function in renal transplants and the treatment of dry age-related macular degeneration.

“The sale of certain NNR assets may allow Catalyst to realize additional value for a subset of these noncore assets as we remain focused on our protease therapeutic programs in hemophilia and anticomplement diseases,” Catalyst President and CEO Nassim Usman, Ph.D., said in a statement.

NNR agonists target neuronal nicotinic receptors (NNRs), also called neuronal acetylcholine nicotinic receptors (nAChRs), which modulate the flow of neurotransmission throughout the brain and nervous system.

Under its agreement with Catalyst, Attenua agreed to acquire three molecules assessed in Phase I and II clinical trials involving a combined more than 1,200 patients with depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Alzheimer’s disease, plus related intellectual property rights and materials.

Attenua agreed to pay Catalyst $1 million up front and up to $105 million in payments tied to achieving development, regulatory, and commercial milestones, as well as royalties on net sales.

“We plan to repurpose one molecule for cough, and another for a rare pediatric disorder,” Attenua President and CEO Jing Liang, Ph.D. stated. The company’s primary focus is on developing novel, nonnarcotic cough medicines.

“With the clinical data in a few central nervous system indications already generated, we plan to move directly into a Phase II proof-of-concept trial in cough in 2017,” Dr. Liang added.

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