CeNeS Pharmaceuticals has awarded Ono Pharmaceutical exclusive rights to develop and commercialise its general anaesthetic and short-acting sedative, CNS-7056, in Japan.

Under the agreement, Osako-based Ono will pay the UK biopharmaceutical company upfront and development milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales of the compound if and when it comes to market.

Intravenously-administered CNS-7056 is designed for use in inducing and maintaining anaesthesia, and as a sedative for mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit.

Pre-clinical studies show the compound, which acts on GABA receptors, rapidly induces and maintains deep sedation and that the effects quickly disappear when administration stops because of its metabolism by esterase enzymes that are widely distributed throughout the body.

CeNeS plans to start a Phase I study in the USA in the first half of 2008, while Ono is expected to begin a Phase I study in Japan as early as the second half of 2008.

“Although CNS-7056 is currently a preclinical compound, we believe that it has excellent potential to become an improved anaesthetic due to its controllability and safety profile,” commented Dr Shozo Matsuoka, Senior Executive Director, Development Headquarters and Member of the Board at Ono.

Earlier this year, CeNes announced positive late-stage data for its lead-product, M6G (morphine-6-glucuronide), for the treatment of post-operative pain, for which it is also seeking a licensing partner.