Maxim, EpiCept join forces

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ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J.— January 4, 2006—EpiCept Corp. announced recently it had completed its merger with Maxim Pharmaceuticals, retaining the EpiCept name. In exchange for all of outstanding Maxim shares, EpiCept issued shares of its common stock to Maxim Pharmaceuticals stockholders, with EpiCept's original stockholders retaining approximately 72 percent ownership of the combined company.
ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J.—The early September announcement of a planned merger of EpiCept Corp. and Maxim Pharmaceuticals Inc., should create a combined company with strengths not only in late-stage drugs, but also a strong and emerging drug discovery program. The result, once the merger is completed in the fourth quarter, will be a diversified pipeline that extends from drug discovery to pain reliever candidates to a leukemia drug that has completed clinical testing.
Jack Talley, CEO of EpiCept, a privately-held specialty pharmaceutical company focused on topical pain relief, sees the merger as benefiting both companies through "a better balanced portfolio." Attractions at Maxim, a public company, included commercial potential for Ceplene, an acute myeloid leukemia treatment ready for orphan drug filing in Europe. While cautioning that it is early stage, Talley says EpiCept was "also attracted to the discovery engine that exists at Maxim for apoptosis inducers and inhibitors in order to feed the front end of the pipeline."
Ben Tseng, Maxim's vice president of research, who will serve as EpiCept's CSO when the merger concludes, says Maxim's high-throughput screening platform for drug discovery could prove useful in screening potential compounds for use in treating pain. Maxim's proprietary apoptosis screen,  he says, "can identify compounds that activate apoptosis through known mechanisms and through unknown mechanisms."
Maxim then uses chemical genetics to "identify the target for that compound," says Tseng. "What we have found is, yes, we can identify new compounds that target known mechanisms." Maxim has identified compounds that may induce apoptosis in cancer cells, with Myriad Pharmaceuticals licensing the most advanced compound–now in Phase I testing. Tseng says Maxim has also identified compounds for inhibiting apoptosis in degenerative diseases. Some, he says, "have demonstrated efficacy in animal models for stroke or myocardial infarction, septic shock, liver failure."
Tseng points out Maxim's capacity to screen more than 30,000 compounds per day, up to four days a week, and automation of all secondary and tertiary assays. He says Maxim is now also developing cell-based assays that focus more on targets.

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