AstraZeneca is shelling out $145 million for access to Eolas Therapeutics’ programme which aims to develop new therapies to tackle nicotine and other addictions. 

The drugs giant has signed a global license and partnership agreement for the Eolas Orexin-1 Receptor Antagonist programme (EORA) for smoking cessation and other indications. 

EORA compounds are highly specific orexin-1 receptor antagonists, which have been shown in animals models to effectively block nicotine addiction and relapse, while preclinical studies have shown that EORA101 and backup compounds are orally bioavailable, brain penetrant, and non-toxic, according to the firm.

In contrast to therapeutics blocking upstream and abundant nicotine receptors, which can lead to many unwanted side effects, OX1 is a downstream receptor, localised in the hypothalamus and acts directly on the motivational properties of addiction, it said. 

The EORA programme was awarded a Blueprint Neurotherapeutics grant from the National Institutes of Health for the development from the preclinical stage through Phase I clinical trials.

Under the deal with AZ, Eolas will receive upfront, clinical and regulatory milestone payments, and also stands to bag royalties on commercial sales of any successful products.

John Dunlop, head of the AZ Neuroscience Innovative Medicines (iMed) unit, said the programme collaboration “is a great example of our unique approach to Neuroscience drug discovery and development, partnering to advance the most exciting scientific opportunities in areas of high unmet medical need”.