US-based drug development services company Aptuit has followed up its recent strategic alliance with GlaxoSmithKline around a research centre in Verona, Italy, with another partnership in which local company Siena Biotech will take a minority stake in the Verona operations.

Aptuit took over the operations of the Verona research centre last month after it was sidelined by GSK’s reduced commitment to discovery in the neurosciences. The agreement involved the 500 or so staff working at GlaxoSmithKline’s Medicines Research Centre transferring to Aptuit while the latter committed to providing GSK with R&D services from the Italian facilities.

Under the strategic partnership with Siena Biotech, a clinical-stage drug discovery company based in Siena, Italy, and focused on neurodegenerative diseases and oncology, Aptuit will become a provider of choice for Siena Biotech’s development pipeline. Aptuit and Siena Biotech will work collaboratively on Siena’s compounds in three key therapeutic areas, to include Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and oncology.

Neither the financial details of the deal nor the precise nature of Siena Biotech’s stake in Aptuit’s Verona operations were disclosed.

Timothy Tyson, chairman and chief executive officer of Aptuit, said the company was strengthening an existing relationship with Siena Biotech, which would be “a valuable partner as we expand our presence, particularly in the Italian marketplace”. Siena’s commitment was “an important validation of the capabilities and expertise gained via our recent acquisition of the Verona Medicines Research Centre from GlaxoSmithKline”, he added.

According to Siena, whose CEO Giovanni Gaviraghi is a former R&D director at the Medicines Research Centre, Aptuit offers technologies, processes and skills complementary to those of the Italian company.

Siena’s business model involves actively seeking out partnerships and research and development agreements around neurodegenerative and proliferative disorders on a risk/reward-sharing basis, “such as this latest partnership with Aptuit”, it noted.