Decision reduces workforce by 45 and aims to build its discovery alliance business.

Hamburg-based Evotec is closing its U.S. subsidiary, Renovis, with the loss of 45 jobs. The cost-cutting exercise will save an estimated €10 million, or about $13.29 million, a year.

Closure of the U.S. business, which Evotec bought just a year ago, means that all the company’s proprietary drug development programs will now be managed through its European operations.

The move is part of Evotec’s “2012 – Action Plan to Focus and Grow,” announced in March, through which the company is trying to extend its cash reach beyond 2012, expand its discovery alliance business, refocus and enhance its pipeline, and build new strategic alliances on promising drug programs.   

Offering a traditional fee-for-service business model, Evotec also aims to significantly expand and grow its discovery alliances business, which already includes long-term collaborations with companies like Boehringer Ingelheim, the CHDI, Ono Pharmaceutical, and Novartis.

With specialist expertise in the development of small molecule drugs against CNS-related disorders, Evotec offers its partners and customers an integrated range of drug discovery technologies built on its EVOlution™ fragment-based drug discovery platform. Capabilities in assay development are combined with a high-throughput screening technology called FCS+plus, compound libraries, and medicinal chemistry expertise.

The firm’s increased focus on development partnerships is evidenced by the March deal with Roche potentially worth $300 million for Phase II development of EVT 101. It is an orally active NR2B selective NMDA antagonist, for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (and potentially neuropathic pain). Developed from discovery stages through clinical studies by Evotec, EVT 101 is the lead compound in the EVT 100 family of candidates. The deal will also involve Roche funding Evotec to carry out Phase I safety and tolerability studies with EVT 103, a next-generation compound to EVT 101.

As for its in-house products, Evotec’s lead candidate is the insomnia therapy EVT 201, a novel partial positive allosteric modulator of the GABAA receptor complex, which has successfully completed one of its two Phase II trials. Next in line is the Phase II-stage candidate EVT 302, an orally active, highly selective and reversible inhibitor of MAO-B, which is in development primarily for smoking cessation.

Just last month, though, the company reported disappointing Phase II trial results with EVT 302, which failed to show the treatment enhanced the quit-rate of smokers, either compared with placebo or when combined with a nicotine replacement patch.

Evotec is now waiting for a full analysis of Phase II trial data before reassessing the future of EVT 302, given the overall potential of MAO-B-inhibitors in a number of indications. It has potential applications in other areas such as Alzheimer’s disease modification, Evotec maintains.

Evotec carried out discovery work for its VR1 (vanilloid receptor 1) antagonist discovery program in collaboration with Pfizer. With potential applications in pain and other areas including  urinary incontinence therapy, the VRI candidate is now in initial Phase I trials. Another early-stage study with a small molecule P2X7 receptor antagonist, which Evotec is developing in-house for the treatment of inflammatory disorders, have also been initiated.

Past News from Evotec

Evotec Cuts Workforce with New Focus on Forging Discovery Partnership (Mar. 27, 2009)
Roche to Support Clinical Trials with Evotec’s Depression Therapy in $300M Deal (Mar. 10, 2009)
Evotec to Take Over Renovis in $151.8M Deal (Sep. 19, 2007)
Renovis Earns $4.5M from Milestones in Pfizer Collaboration (June 8, 2007)
Pfizer and Renovis Extend Research Collaboration (Apr. 10, 2007)

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