Firm believes triple-acting drug will benefit patients who do not respond to current SSRIs.

Euthymics Bioscience raised $24 million in a Series A financing round led by Novartis Venture Funds and Venture Investors. The funds, which will be paid in milestone-related tranches, are being used to complete the acquisition of DOV Pharmaceutical and progress the latter’s clinical-stage antidepressant candidate EB-1010 (formerly DOV 21,947) for patients with inadequate responses to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Euthymics says Phase II proof-of-concept studies with the drug have already yielded promising efficacy data, and a Phase II/III study is expected to start in the first half of 2011. The acquisition price for DOV is for up to $2.0 million in cash, payable in two installments, DOV separately reported.

The prescription antidepressants market exceeds $20 billion annually worldwide, and over 200 million prescriptions are dispensed every year in the U.S. alone, remarks Novartis Venture Funds’ managing director Campbell Murray, M.D., who has been appointed Euthymics’ chairman. Moreover, he adds, estimates suggest that some 66% of patients with major depression do not respond adequately to current SSRIs. “Euthymics enters this field with a ready-made market of underserved patients, a clinical-stage drug, and an executive team with an impressive track record,” he stresses. “In short, we have all the ingredients for success for our company and for our patients.”

EB-1010 is an unbalanced triple reuptake inhibitor (TRI) designed to impact differentially on serotonin (5HT), norepinephrine, and dopamine reuptake, Euthymics explains. The drug displays the greatest affinity to the serotonin transporter, half as much against the norepinephrine transporter, and one-eighth the affinity to the dopamine transporter.

The firm suggests this differential activity improves efficacy in comparison with current SSRIs, while reducing common side-effects such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and cognitive impairment. It also points out the EB-1010 ratio of serotonin:norepinephrine:dopamine modulation is very similar to that of a previously evaluated combination of medications shown by the federally funded Star*D study to improve outcomes in major depression.

While EB-1010 forms the basis of Euthymics’ development focus in the short term, the firm suggests that adjusting the ratio of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine reuptake inhibition may allow the development of additional compounds for the treatment of disorders such as adult ADHD, substance abuse, premenstrual dysphoria disorder, anxiety, pain, and cognitive disorders.

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