Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim and Cambridge, UK-based Autifony Therapeutics have announced a new collaboration focused on a novel therapeutic approach to a range of CNS disorders.

The deal gives Boehringer an exclusive option to purchase Autifony’s Kv3.1/3.2 positive modulator platform, and includes lead compound AUT00206, a novel, orally active small molecule currently being assessed in two Phase Ib studies, including one in schizophrenia.

According to Autifony, preclinical studies using models relevant to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia suggest that AUT00206 could treat cognitive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as positive symptoms with fewer side effects than currently available antipsychotics.

Autifony, which was established by GlaxoSmithKline scientists back in 2011, will receive an upfront fee of 25 million Euros from Boehringer, with the possibility of further payments of up to 17.5 million Euros during the option period based on achievement of short-term milestones.

The deal could be worth up to 627.5 million Euros, if all development and pre-commercialisation milestones are achieved once Boehringer has exercised its option.

“This partnership opens up the possibility of testing clinically an unprecedented therapeutic concept for the treatment of schizophrenia and to develop novel compounds with significant value to the patient,” noted Jan Poth, Therapeutic Area head of CNS and Immunology at the German drugmaker.

“Schizophrenia is a challenging indication for drug development, and the companies’ commitment and combined expertise will accelerate progress towards a much-needed new medicine for patients with this serious disorder.”