Bionomics, a drug discovery and development company based in Australia, is teaming up with Merck to discover and develop novel small molecule candidates for the treatment of chronic pain, including neuropathic pain. The initial period of the research program will be two years.

Per the agreement, Merck will have the option to exclusively license a compound from Bionomics for development and commercialization; in exchange, Bionomics may receive development and regulatory milestone payments and option exercise fees of up to $172 million. Bionomics may also be eligible for undisclosed royalties on net sales of products from the collaboration.

Bionomics will be using its ionX® drug discovery platform and MultiCore® chemistry to identify potential drug candidates as part of the deal. The firm describes ionX as a set of technologies for the identification of drugs targeting ion channels for CNS diseases, and MultiCore as a diversity-orientated chemistry platform for the discovery of small molecule drugs.

“This research collaboration is a strong validation of our drug discovery platforms,” said Sue O’Connor, Ph.D., vp of neuroscience research at Bionomics, in a statement.

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