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Addex Dishes About J&J Deal

Merck wasn’t the only company holding an R&D Day today- Swiss pharmaceutical firm Addex Pharmaceuticals also held a briefing for investors and journalists. (I didn’t get to go to Geneva, but I did watch the webcast and downloaded the presentations here.)

Addex has dedicated its entire pipeline to allosteric modulators- drug candidates that work at protein sites other than the ones where the body’s chemicals typically bind. Last fall we wrote about Addex’s strategy and its potential usefulness in tackling G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), one of the biggest (if not the biggest) classes of drug targets.

Today Addex updated attendees on a few different drug candidates. But the biggest news was that it disclosed the terms of its schizophrenia drug partnership with Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson. According to the terms of the deal, Addex could get as much as 112 million euros subject to successful completion of development and regulatory milestones. In addition, Addex is eligible for low double-digit royalties on sales of the possible schizophrenia drug it discovered, subject to regulatory approval and successful commercial launch. Addex’s stock jumped up 8.75% on the news, to 13.05 Swiss francs (about $11.75)

In the deal, Ortho gets to fund and perform preclinical and clinical development for Addex’s potential schizophrenia drug, known as ADX71149. The molecule dials up the activity of a GPCR that responds to glutamate, called mGluR2. The dialing-up part is what’s thought to be important. It’s the whole point of taking an allosteric approach. Instead of just turning a receptor on or off, you adjust its activity to acceptable levels. The philosophy at Addex is that this more subtle approach will restore more normal glutamate signaling in schizophrenia patients, with fewer of the kinds of side effects that result from an all-or-nothing, on-or-off approach. Of course all that remains to be seen for ADX71149. Phase II clinical trials (which can give an indication of therapeutic potential) for the molecule are slated to start later this year.

This nuanced approach to disease was clearly attractive to J&J, but it’s also one that many, including Addex, have stumbled over. Last December, Addex had a big disappointment when they had to stop development of their lead drug candidate, ADX10059, because of safety concerns. The molecule was in clinical trials for migraine and heartburn associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease. But a safety monitoring turned up signs of liver abnormalities in people receiving ADX10059.

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