Agreement gives Swiss firm exclusive rights to oral P2X7 receptor antagonists.

Affectis will receive €2.4 million in up-front payments and research funding from Merck Serono as part of an agreement to develop oral neurodegenerative disease therapies targeting the P2X7 receptor. The deal gives Merck Serono worldwide exclusive rights to develop and commercialize selected compounds, and includes a research collaboration focused on optimizing P2X7 antagonists. Affectis could receive up to €277 million in milestone payments for the first three products developed through the partnership.

P2X7 is an ATP-gated ion-channel receptor involved in the maturation and release of proinflammatory cytokines, and is located in brain cells that are activated by high levels of ATP during neuroinflammation, Affectis states. The firm is focused on the development of drugs for the treatment of psychiatric and neuroinflammatory disorders.

Its lead P2X7 antagonist candidate, AFC-5128, is a brain-penetrating oral compound currently in preclinical development for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and neuropathic pain. Prior to the announcement of its deal with Merck Serono, the firm was projecting making an IND filing for AFC-5128 and starting Phase I trials with the drug during 2011. A second P2X7 candidate, AFC-5261, is also in preclinical development.

Affectis’ lead clinical candidate, cimicoxib, is in development for the treatment of major depression, and recently completed a Phase IIa clinical trial demonstrating benefits over placebo and higher remission rates.

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