Pfizer has confirmed that it is to link up with Taisho Pharmaceutical Co to develop and commercialize TS-032, a new schizophrenia drug candidate discovered by the Japanese drugmaker which is currently in pre-clinical development.

The two firms announced that they were planning to team up at the end of October and it has now been confirmed that they will work together on TS-032, a novel metabotropic glutamate receptor agonist. They say that “although the characteristics of mGluR are still only partly understood”, it is believed to play a role in the transmission of glutamate and other substances in the brain and may be one cause for symptoms related to schizophrenia as well as other disorders of the central nervous system.

Under the terms of the deal, Taisho will receive an initial payment of $22 million, plus development and sales milestone payments as well as royalties. Pfizer’s head of R&D< Martin Mackay, noted that “there still remains a significant need for novel treatment advances with improved efficacy and fewer side effects” when it comes to schizophrenia, an area in which it has “long-standing strength”. The New York-based giant’s products for psychiatric illnesses include the antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline), Xanax (alprazolam) for anxiety disorders and the antipsychotic Geodon (ziprasidone).

Getting an upfront payment of $22 million for a preclinical compound represents very good news for Taisho which is better known for its over-the-counter products. The deal also marks a return to schizophrenia research for Pfizer almost a year after it discontinued its role in the development of asenapine with Akzo Nobel.