Partnership will focus on the discovery of novel targets in Alzheimer’s disease

Cerevance – the clinical-stage drug discovery and development company focused on central nervous system diseases – has announced a multi-year strategic research collaboration with Merck – known as MSD outside the US and Canada – to identify novel targets for Alzheimer’s disease.

The link up will utilise Cerevance’s proprietary ‘Nuclear Enriched Transcript Sort sequencing’ (NETSseq) technology platform. The company will concurrently out-license one discovery-stage program to Merck as part of the collaboration.

Under the terms of the agreement, Cerevance will receive a $25m upfront payment and is eligible to receive development and commercial milestone payments totalling around $1.1bn. This will be in addition to potential royalties on sales of approved products derived from the collaboration.

“The establishment of this collaboration with Merck, which comes on the heels of our positive phase 2 data for CVN424 in patients with Parkinson’s disease, represents a significant milestone for Cerevance and reinforces the promise of our NETSseq technology platform,” explained Mark Carlton, chief scientific officer of Cerevance. “We believe we are well-positioned to identify novel targets for neurodegenerative diseases and look forward to collaborating with Merck to potentially bring forward transformative therapeutics for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Progress in our understanding of the biology of neurodegenerative diseases continues to reveal compelling new mechanisms for potential therapeutic intervention,” said Jason Uslaner, vice president at Merck Research Laboratories. “We look forward to advancing the discovery programme as well as taking advantage of the NETSseq platform to identify new targets with the team at Cerevance.”

To date, Cerevance’s NETSseq technology platform has isolated and allowed for analysis of specific cell populations in thousands of post-mortem, healthy and diseased human brain tissue samples across a range of ages and brain regions.

These analyses of human brain tissue can expose biological pathways underlying neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases that would be difficult to see in animal models or differentiated human stem cells. As a result, Cerevance’s platform can reveal novel therapeutic targets that can be modulated to correct neural circuitry or slow the disease process.