Wanted: CNS disorder drugs

Roche, PsychoGenics team up to identify neuropsyciatric disorder treatments

Amy Swinderman
BASEL, Switzerland—Global pharma Roche has entered into a development agreement with PsychoGenics Inc., a preclinical behavioral neurobiology firm located in Tarrytown, N.Y., in which the companies will work to identify neuropsychiatric disorder treatments.

The drug discovery and development agreement, announced in June, provides that Roche will provide drug candidates and PsychoGenics will evaluate these candidates, using its proprietary drug discovery technologies.

Either party has the option to exclusively develop any drug candidate emerging from this collaboration, with the non-developing party receiving milestones and royalties commensurate with the stage of development. The specific terms of the milestones and royalties are confidential.

Alain Vertes, global alliance director of Roche Pharma Partnering, says the agreement builds on previous fee-for-service collaborations between the two companies and will help Roche accelerate the initial stages of drug discovery for central nervous system (CNS) disorders.

"This is a very exciting capability for Roche," Vertes says. "The ultimate goal for Roche is to bring clinically differentiated medicines to benefit patients with CNS diseases. The aim of this partnership is to do that through strengthening our CNS programs in two ways: addressing early on attrition issues and accelerating the pace of our preclinical discovery. PsychoGenics offers a comprehensive platform to conduct behavioral pharmacology in a unique high-throughput format powered by advanced bioinformatics."

PsychoGenics' ultimate goal is to identify compounds with unexploited commercial potential using its proprietary approach and together with Roche, further develop them, says Dr. David Pushett, vice president of PsychoGenics Business Development.

"Roche's experience with PsychoGenics' behavioral testing expertise, a significant component of the current agreement, provided the ground work for this collaboration," Pushett says. "This agreement combines the complementary strengths of PsychoGenics' pre-clinical in vivo drug discovery expertise and Roche's drug candidates to identify a new generation of treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders."

PsychoGenics works with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academic institutions and non-profit research centers to help discover treatments for major neurological and psychiatric disorders, including ALS, anxiety, cognitive impairment, depression, Huntington's Disease, psychosis/schizophrenia and SMA.

PsychoGenics' technologies combine its in vivo behavioral expertise with recent developments in robotics, computer vision and bio/cheminformatics to evaluate drug candidates for potential use across the spectrum of neuropsychiatric disease indications.

The company's in-house discovery efforts have focused on psychiatric indications.
"PsychoGenics' unique approach to drug discovery allows for the identification of potential neuropsychiatric drugs at earlier stages, reducing the drug development time by several years, resulting in significant savings, and boosting the drug development pipeline," Pushett says.

"As multidimensional behavioral pharmacology programs become validated and enriched, we believe that such technology platforms will have a long-lasting effect on our research productivity," Vertes adds. "This is the greatest upside we could hope for." DDN

Amy Swinderman

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