Companies aim to develop drugs targeting aldosterone synthase in deal worth €33.8 million.

Merck & Co. is paying German CRO ElexoPharm €1.5 million up front as part of a collaboration and exclusive, worldwide licensing agreement to develop novel cardiovascular disease candidates that target aldosterone synthase. The partnership could bring ElexoPharm another €32.3 million in development, regulatory, and commercialization milestones plus royalties.

Merck will be responsible for all development, regulatory, and commercialization activities relating to any products licensed through the deal.

In addition to its core CRO business ElexoPharm is also undertaking in-house development of drugs that inhibit aldosterone synthase, or the CYP11B2 enzyme, for the potential treatment of congestive heart failure, myocardial fibrosis and hyperaldosteronism. CYP11B2 is a key enzyme in mineralocorticoid biosynthesis and catalyzes the conversion of deoxycorticosterone to the most potent mineralocorticoid aldosterone, ElexoPharm explains.

The enzyme is regulated by several physiological parameters including the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone-system and plasma potassium concentrations. The firm has developed a preclinical portfolio of selective nonsteroidal CYP11B2 inhibitors, which it claims have no effect on other steroidogenic CYP enzymes and reduced ACTH-stimulated aldosterone levels in rats.

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