Targacept aims to exploit technology for anti-inflammatory product development.

Targacept is paying Cornerstone Therapeutics $1.5 million up front for worldwide rights to the latter’s nicotinic-receptor based patents and preclinical compounds targeting the alpha-7 and other nicotinic receptors. As part of the deal Cornerstone could receive additional success-based milestone payments of $45.6 million to $74.9 million, dependent on which of two specified lead compounds Targacept progresses. Lower success-based milestones will be due if the firm decides to develop other compounds covered by the licensed IP. The technology acquired by Targacept was originally licensed to Cornerstone by its developers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.

“We look forward to further exploiting the unique breadth of therapeutic applications for neuronal nicotinic receptors (NNRs) by expanding our work in promising indications where inflammation is a key component,” remarks J. Donald deBethizy, Ph.D.,Targacept’s president and CEO. “We believe that NNR therapeutics hold significant promise in treating a wide variety of inflammatory disorders and are especially enthusiastic about compounds selective for the alpha7 nicotinic receptor. This strategic transaction enhances our inflammatory disorders program and further bolsters our industry-leading NNR-based patent estate.”

“The licensing of this technology is a major step for Cornerstone, enabling us to continue to focus on our core business of developing and commercializing products in the respiratory and hospital spaces,” adds Craig A. Collard, Cornerstone’s president and CEO. “We expect to use the proceeds from this and other transactions to fund additional product acquisitions to enhance our continued growth.”

Targacept is developing new treatments primarily for central nervous system diseases and disorders, with a specific focus on targeting NNRs. The firm’s lead therapeutic candidate is the nicotinic channel blocker TC-5214, which started in Phase III development for the treatment of major depressive disorder in June through the firm’s partnership with AstraZeneca. The Phase III Renaissance program for TC-5214 will support a planned 2012 NDA filing for the drug as an adjunct treatment for major depressive disorder in patients with an inadequate response to first-line therapy with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or serotonin/norephinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). A Marketing Authorization Application for TC-5214 in Europe is projected for 2014.

Targacept and AstraZeneca are in addition progressing two Phase II candidates, AZD3480/TC-1734 and AZD1446/TC-6683 for the treatment of ADHD and Alzheimer disease/ADHD, respectively. Meanwhile, Targacept’s in house Phase II pipeline includes TC-5619, which is in development for the treatment of both ADHD and cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. AstraZeneca also has an option to license this candidate at the proof-of-concept stage.

The Targacept preclinical pipeline includes a Parkinson disease candidate and a program focused on pain/smoking cessation, addiction and obesity. A license option for these candidates is held by GlaxoSmithKline.

Cornerstone is a specialty pharmaceutical company focusing on acquiring, developing and commercializing significant products primarily for the respiratory market. The deal with Targacept follows just 24 hours are Cornerstone announced a deal with The Cough Company for a license to the latter’s drug delivery IP. The agreement will also see the two firms collaborate on the development of one or more products to treat respiratory diseases. “We view The Cough Company as an important partner in the continued development of our cough and cold franchise, which is a key aspect of our growth strategy,” Mr. Collard commented.

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