Merck KGA has signed a deal to develop treatments for Parkinson's disease with French firm Domain Therapeutics.

Specifically, the company's Merck Serono unit has inked an exclusive development and licensing agreement with Domain to develop metabotropic glutamate receptor 4 (mGluR4) positive allosteric modulator drugs targeting Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. The Strasbourg-headquartered company will contribute optimised compounds that have been developed from its proprietary chemical series, the partners noted.

Cashwise, Domain will receive 2 million euros in upfront payments and research funding, and is eligible for up to 132 million euros in milestones for the first two products, as well as undisclosed royalties.

mGluR4 is a glutamate receptor, a member of the G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) family believed to be a potential therapeutic target for Parkinson’s. Bernhard Kirschbaum, head of R&D at Merck Serono, noted that Domain "has developed great expertise" in the GPCR area, adding that the partnership "reflects our long-term commitment to develop new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases".

Domain chief executive Pascal Neuville said the agreement is a validation of his company's business model, ie "addressing difficult GPCRs and partnering compounds, with a significant deal, at an early stage of development". He added that the Merck link-up "will enable us to sign further deals of this kind".