Finland's Biotie Therapies Corp has signed a deal with the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the US National Institutes of Health to investigate nepicastat in the treatment of cocaine dependence.

Under the terms of the pact, NIDA will fund the trial, lasting 11 weeks, in 180 treatment-seeking cocaine-dependent subjects using nepicastat, which is also known as SYN117. The study will be conducted at 12 clinics across the USA which specialise in the treatment of drug dependence.

Timo Veromaa, Biotie's chief executive, said the firm is looking forward to working with NIDA "and some of the world's most renowned investigators of treatments for cocaine dependence". There is currently no approved therapy for the problem, he added, "a condition which exacts a heavy toll on individuals, their families and society as a whole".

Biotie and NIDA have previously collaborated on preclinical studies evaluating interactions between nepicastat, a selective inhibitor of the enzyme dopamine beta-hydroxylase, and drugs of abuse. The compound, which was licensed from Roche in 2007, is also in a Phase II study for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, funded by the US Department of Defence.

The cocaine trial is expected to start in the first half of 2012 and will take two years to complete. Biotie's most advanced product, nalmefene for alcohol dependence, has completed Phase III studies run by licensing partner Lundbeck.