Firms will collaborate on development of Siena’s drugs for CNS diseases.

Siena Biotech is taking a minority equity stake in Aptuit’s recently acquired Italian operations as part of a strategic alliance through which the pharmaceutical services firm will become a provider of choice for Siena’s drug development activities. Under terms of the deal the firms will collaborate on development of the Siena pipeline, which is focused on Alzheimer and Huntington diseases and neuro-oncology.

Aptuit acquired The Verona Medicines Research Centre from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) at the start of July. The deal included transfer of the facility’s approximately 500 staff members to Aptuit from GSK.

Aptuit says this acquisition has significantly boosted its existing drug development capabilities as well as provided specialist expertise in drug discovery and development in neurosciences, which will be a particularly valuable resource for Siena’s drug development pipeline.

“Siena Biotech’s commitment is an important validation of the capabilities and expertise gained via our recent acquisition of the Verona Medicines Research Centre from GSK,” states Aptuit’s chairman and CEO Timothy C. Tyson. “Aptuit has technologies, processes, and skills that are complementary to those of Siena Biotech and therefore represents the ideal partner for us as we advance our drug candidates through development,” adds Giovanni Gaviraghi, Siena’s CEO and formerly R&D director at the GSK Medicines Research Centre.

The company’s therapeutic pipeline includes Alzheimer disease candidates in development through separate partnerships with Wyeth and Roche. An early clinical-stage SirT1 inhibitor, 6-chloro-2,3,4,9-tetrahydro-1H-carbazole-1-carboxamide, is in clinical development for Huntington disease via a 2009 licensing deal with Elixir Pharmaceuticals. A Phase I study with the candidate was initiated in January, and the firms project the drug will be in Phase II trials by early 2011.

Siena’s in-house pipeline includes a huntingtin toxicity inhibitor and an oncology candidate that are both projected to complete Phase I development during the first quarter of 2011. Additional candidates for treating Huntington disease, Alzheimer disease, and neuro-oncology are moving toward preclinical development. These include a Wnt signaling inhibitor and chemokine antagonist for cancer indications.

In April Siena inked separate research collaboration agreements with Singapore’s Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC) and Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), to develop new drugs and targeted antibodies against cancer. Both TEC and SigN are part of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

The collaboration with ETC is focused on developing molecular inhibitors of a major oncology signaling pathway as a therapeutic strategy for difficult-to-treat forms of cancer such as gastric cancer, leukemia, and brain tumors. The partnership with SIgN aims to develop a novel monoclonal antibody applicable to bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

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