Sunovion Pharmaceuticals and Afraxis have teamed up to accelerate Sunovion’s preclinical central nervous system (CNS) drug discovery process by using Afraxis’ Enhanced Spine Platform (ESP) to identify novel CNS compounds that could potentially be superior to existing treatments. Afraxis will be eligible for certain milestone payments for each compound through Phase II clinical trial initiation.

“A key goal of the partnership is to use ESP to guide the optimization of clinical drugs for a range of complex and often devastating psychiatric and neurological disorders,” Tom Large, svp of discovery research at Sunovion, said in a statement.

According to Afraxis, detailed analysis of dendritic spine morphology across distributed brain regions can yield reliable disease spine “signatures” that can be used to screen for drug candidates that correct the disease-specific spine abnormalities. The firm says that the technology behind ESP uses dendritic spine measurement methods to evaluate spine morphology at rates of more than a half million spines per month.

“The scope of this collaboration with Sunovion envisions running up to one thousand compounds through our proprietary platform,” added Carmine Stengone, CEO of Afraxis. “We feel the combination of Sunovion and Afraxis efforts will increase the odds of finding potential treatments in areas of high unmet medical need.”

Sunovion isn’t the only company to use ESP for CNS drug discovery: Back in April, Afraxis announced a collaboration with French pharma firm Servier on a drug discovery effort, using ESP to assess complex neural networks with the goal of evaluating preclinical efficacy and safety in CNS disorders.

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