Italy’s Newron Pharmaceuticals has agreed to buy UK-based and privately-owned biopharmaceutical company Hunter-Fleming in a bid to boost its clinical-stage pipeline.

The Bresso, Milan-headquartered firm is to make an upfront payment of 8 million euros, minus net debt, in newly issued Newron shares, while “success-based milestones” related to Hunter-Fleming’s development programmes, will be made up to a maximum of 17 million euros. The acquisition is expected to close in April.

The attraction of Hunter-Fleming to Newron is its focus on neurodegenerative and inflammatory disorders. Specifically it has a pipeline of three compounds in clinical development and one in discovery, led by HF0220: a broad-spectrum neuroprotective agent in Phase II which is exploring biological markers in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Another Phase II study of the compound, looking at rheumatoid arthritis, is due to be initiated at the end of the year.

Also in the pipeline is HF0420, a low-molecular weight oligosaccharide in Phase I for prevention of anti-cancer therapy induced neuropathy and HF0299, a naturally-occurring human steroid with potential in the treatment of neuropathic pain, which is also in Phase I. HF1220 is a second-generation neuroprotective compound that is currently in the discovery phase and Newron will also acquire an equity holding in a “special purpose vehicle” that has been set up to develop a late preclinical compound in asthma.

Luca Benatti, Newron’s chief executive, said that his firm is “impressed by the quality of Hunter-Fleming’s development compounds, particularly the novelty of HF0220 which could rapidly progress to proof-of-concept trials.” At present, much of the firm’s future prospects are tied up with safinamide, which is partnered with Merck Serono and is in Phase III for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Newron is also conducting Phase II trials with ralfinamide for neuropathic and post-surgical dental pain.