Bionomics and Merck partner on Alzheimer’s

Agreement to fund development of compounds for cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer's disease and other conditions of the central nervous system

Lloyd Dunlap
ADELAIDE, South Australia—Bionomics Limited has entered into an exclusive research collaboration and license agreement with Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, for its BNC375 research program targeting cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer's disease and other central nervous system conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, ADHD and cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia.
 
The Motley Fool noted that Bionomics shares gained 17 percent on the announcement. “That’s big bikkies for the junior biotech,” the analyst firm stated, “and a major step toward developing its BNC375 program that is targeting cognitive dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and other central nervous system disorders.”
 
Under the agreement, Merck will fund all research and development, including clinical development, and will be responsible for worldwide commercialization of any products from the collaboration. Bionomics will receive upfront payments totaling US$20 million and is eligible to receive up to US$506 million for achievement of certain research and clinical development milestones and undisclosed royalties on any product sales.

"We are very excited to work with Merck to progress new therapies for cognitive impairment in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Deborah Rathjen, CEO & Managing Director of Bionomics. "We believe that the combination of Bionomics' innovative approach and technologies, within its ionX platform, has the potential to rapidly advance new treatments."

"Bionomics continues to deliver on its business model that focuses on strategic partnering for the development and commercialization of selected programs within its pipeline," Rathjen added. "This significant agreement, our second with Merck, further validates our drug discovery platforms."

"Merck is pleased to add a new scientific collaboration with Bionomics," said Dr. Rupert Vessey, head of Early Development and Discovery Sciences at Merck Research Laboratories. "Bionomics' capabilities and overall expertise in discovery and characterization of small molecules for this neuroscience target class is impressive."

In July 2013, Bionomics announced an option and license agreement with Merck to discover and develop novel small molecule candidates for the treatment of chronic pain, including neuropathic pain. Under the terms of that agreement, Merck has the option to exclusively license a compound from Bionomics for development and commercialization.

BNC375 is a key compound from the Bionomics research program licensed to Merck under this latest agreement. BNC375 and related compounds have displayed potent efficacy in animal cognitive impairment models. BNC375 targets a receptor critical to cognitive processes. Both episodic and working memory improved. The compound has demonstrated a 100-fold therapeutic dose range and wide safety window in studies to date with no potential for development of tolerance.

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia and thought to be caused by damage to nerve cells in the brain. Symptoms are characterized by a decline in memory or other thinking skills; it affects a person's everyday activities and is fatal. One in 9 Americans older than 65 years has Alzheimer's disease (5 million people). It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. By 2025 the number of Americans aged 65 and older with Alzheimer's is forecast to increase 40 percent to 7.1 million. Direct costs of the disease in 2014 are estimated at $214 billion (2014 Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's Association). More than 332,000 Australians suffer from Alzheimer's disease.
 
Bionomics is a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to making better treatments for cancer and central nervous system disorders such as anxiety, depression and Alzheimer's disease. Rathjen states that, “We are in a strong growth phase with our world-class portfolio of promising drug candidates from early to advanced stages of clinical development. This portfolio is fed by highly productive drug discovery platforms which include MultiCore®, our proprietary chemistry capability. At the core of our business is strategic partnering. We partner with large pharmaceutical companies to get our drugs through the later stages of development and into the market as rapidly as possible. This means we can focus our strengths in innovative drug discovery to extract as many "shots on goal" from our diverse pipeline in the quest to create the world's new blockbuster drugs.”

Lloyd Dunlap

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