Taking aim at Alzheimer’s

Evotec, Roche to partner on development of Alzheimer’s treatment

Kelsey Kaustinen
HAMBURG, Germany—After tackling cancer and central nervoussystem diseases, longtime drug discovery partners Roche and Evotec AG aresetting their sights on Alzheimer's disease (AD). The two companies haveannounced a partnership with a potential total price tag of $830 million, thenewest effort in their long business relationship.
 
 
The two companies signed an exclusive worldwide agreement inearly September to develop and commercialize Evotec's MAO-B inhibitor forpatients suffering from AD.
 
"We are delighted to have Roche as our strategic partner tofight Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Werner Lanthaler, CEO of Evotec, said in apress release. "Their outstanding commitment to pharmaceutical innovation makesRoche the ideal partner to fight one of the biggest healthcare problems of ourtime."
 
 
Per the agreement, Evotec will receive an upfront paymentfrom Roche of $10 million, and could receive development and commercialmilestone payments of up to $820 million as a result of the deal, in additionto tiered double-digit royalties on sales. Roche will begin studies in 2012 todemonstrate proof-of-concept, and will also assume responsibility for clinicaldevelopment, manufacturing and commercialization activities. According toLanthaler, Roche will be responsible for running and monitoring all clinicaltrials, and Evotec will "fully hand over the clinical development package."
 
 
"Roche is committed to bringing innovative treatments topatients suffering from devastating neurodegenerative diseases, and isdeveloping a number of approaches to tackle Alzheimer's," Jean-Jacques Garaud,head of Roche Pharma Research & Early Development, said in a press release."The addition of EVT-302 to our CNS pipeline complements other approaches weare investigating including tau- and amyloid-targeted therapies."
 
Evotec's EVT-302 compound is a novel, potent inhibitor ofmonoamine oxidase type B (MAO-B), an enzyme known to break down dopamine in thebrain and contribute to the production of free radicals. Free radicals cancause oxidative stress, which may contribute to pathogenesis of AD, as seen inthe upregulation of MAO-B expression in the brains of AD patients. The use of aselective MAO-B inhibitor is targeted for the treatment of AD symptoms and canpotentially slow the progression of the disease.
 
 
According to the World Health Organization, AD currentlyaffects approximately 35 million people worldwide. The disease is the mostcommon form of dementia, in which protein plaques begin to manifest in thebrain, eventually leading to the death of brain cells. Though specific genescontribute to or predispose someone to Alzheimer's disease, no one factor hasbeen identified as its cause.
 
 
However, patients suffering from Parkinson's disease alsodisplay dopamine shortages, which sheds some light on just how much of animpact a lack of dopamine can have on the brain. Dopamine is aneurotransmitter, and has several important roles in the brain, includingpunishment and rewards, sleep, memory, learning and movement. Given the resultsof Phase I studies, which showed EVT-302 to be well tolerated and highlyselective for MAO-B, Lanthaler is optimistic regarding the therapeuticpotential of EVT-302.
 
"In the best case, this is a stand-alone intervention thatslows down the progression of AD significantly," says Lanthaler. "On a broaderscale, one could see also potential combinations, where the addition of EVT-302could complement other approaches such as tau- and/or amyloid-targetedtherapies."
 
 
As for whether this has the potential to become a standardearly treatment measure to slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer's,Lanthaler notes that there is "a very good rationale and already clinicaldata," adding that the partners will wait to see what the final trials reveal.
 

 
Evotec reports 34 percent revenue and earnings growth 
 
HAMBURG, Germany—Evotec AG recently reported a strongoperational performance for the first half of 2011. Total group revenuesincreased by 34 percent to $45.7 million, including $5.3 million from theacquisitions of DeveloGen, Kinaxo and Compound Focus in the first half of theyear.
 
 
Meanwhile, R&D expenses increased by $2.3 million,mainly from the inclusion of DeveloGen and Kinaxo R&D expenses and thestrategic build-up of Evotec's beta cell franchise, CureBeta. Liquidity,including cash, cash equivalents, investments and long-term financial assets,remained strong at $73.3 million.
 
Based on these results, Evotec raised its revenue guidancefor the current fiscal year. Total group revenues are now expected to grow byapproximately 30 percent, leading to revenues of $95.7 million to $98.5million.
 
Evotec said potential milestone achievements in the secondhalf of the year are expected to further enhance the company's operatingfinancial performance, giving it a strong basis for increased operatingprofitability over 2010.

Kelsey Kaustinen

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