Firm will use solubilizing technology for development of allosteric modulator drugs against multiple CNS disorders.

Newly established CNS drugs firm Sage Therapeutics negotiated a license to use Ligand Pharmaceuticals’ Captisol drug solubilization technology for the development and commercialization of CNS therapeutics based on Sage’s positive and negative allosteric modulator (PANAM) chemistry platform. Under terms of the deal, Ligand will receive up-front and research support payments, plus milestone payments relating to the development of Captisol-enabled products.

Sage was launched yesterday by Third Rock Ventures, with a $35 million pot of Series A financing, to develop a broad pipeline of PANAM therapeutics for CNS disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, pain, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The PANAM chemistry platform is designed to specifically target the primary excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and allow the development of allosteric modulators that fine tune and restore neuronal activity that is otherwise disrupted in CNS disorders. The firm’s initial focus will be on the development of nonbenzodiazepine and nonglycine approaches to modulating GABA and glutamate receptors, respectively.

Sage maintains that the Captisol platform is ideally suited to solubilizing allosteric receptor modulators for use in CNS diseases. “Accessing Captisol is a prime example of an early collaboration that will help accelerate the clinical development and commercialization of our broad pipeline of allosteric receptor modulators to treat debilitating CNS conditions,” comments Kevin Star, interim CEO at Sage, and a partner at Third Rock Ventures.

Sage’s founders are Steven Paul, M.D., former executive vp for science and technology and president of Lilly Research Laboratories and a former scientific director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and Douglas Covey, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at the Washington University School of Medicine.

Captisol cyclodextrins are a specifically modified family of cyclodextrins designed to improve solubility, stability, bioavailability, safety, and dosing of APIs. The technology was acquired by Ligand in January through its takeover of CyDex Pharmaceuticals. Ligand says Captisol is currently incorporated in five FDA-approved drugs, and marketed by three of its licensees: Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Prism Pharmaceuticals. Ongoing Captisol drug development collaborations are ongoing with over 40 companies worldwide.

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