Evotec has signed a new agreement with partner Roche to develop a compound with potential in Alzheimer's disease, replacing an antidepressant programme which was dropped in May.
The German biotechnology company said it will receive $10 million in upfront licensing fees as a result of Roche's decision to collaborate on the development of the new compound, a monoamine oxidase type B inhibitor codenamed EVT-302.
The agreement could also see Evotec receive development and milestone payments up to $820m and tiered double-digit royalties on sales should the drug candidate reach the market. Proof-of-concept clinical trials are scheduled to start next year.
Roche will fund the clinical development of EVT-302, as well as any manufacturing and commercialisation costs. That is good news for Evotec, given that the antidepressant programme dropped earlier this year had been the main element of its collaboration with Roche. That drug, called EVT-101, had advanced to Phase II testing.
As a result of the latest deal Evotec has raised its revenue forecasts for 2011 to 77-79 million euros from an earlier prediction of 70-72 million euros.
MAO-B inhibitors are thought to work in Alzheimer's disease by blocking the breakdown of neurotransmitters and interrupting the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) involved in the inflammation and degeneration of neurons which are the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.
"For these reasons, the selective MAO-B inhibitor is targeted to treat AD symptoms and potentially slow disease progression," said Evotec in a statement.
EVT-302 joins other programmes at Roche targeting two other key characteristics of Alzheimer's disease, namely amyloid plaques and tau proteins.
The Swiss drugmaker's lead programmes are gantenerumab and RG7412, both of which are monoclonal antibodies targeting the amyloid pathway which are currently in Phase II trials.