Allergan scoops up some CNS drugs as its $160B Pfizer merger pends

Allergan's David Nicholson

Allergan ($AGN), seeking to burnish its reputation in R&D, bought into some early-stage treatments for autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder as it prepares to join forces with Pfizer ($PFE) in a massive merger.

The company is paying an undisclosed sum to startup Rugen Therapeutics to support the discovery and development of drugs for OCD and disorders on the autism spectrum. Rugen is in line for an upfront fee and milestone payments down the line, giving Allergan the exclusive option to acquire any discovered treatments after the proof-of-concept stage.

Allergan didn't disclose the biological targets of its new projects, saying only that they are first-in-class small-molecule compounds that have shown promise in animal models of OCD and autism.

The move comes days after Allergan and Pfizer announced their plans to merge in a $160 billion deal the companies expect to close in the middle of next year. In the run-up to that widely expected announcement, Allergan went on the offensive with its approach to research, walking back some of CEO Brent Saunders' earlier statements about the value of drug discovery and outlining a pipeline of more than 70 candidates in mid- to late-stage development.

Allergan said the discovery-stage deal with Rugen is an affirmation of what it calls an "open science" model, an R&D philosophy that prizes bringing in assets from academic and pharma partners in lieu of inventing them in-house.

"Allergan is committed to finding breakthrough therapies in areas where there are limited treatment options," R&D Executive Vice President David Nicholson said in a statement. "... The compounds we are working to develop with Rugen are in preclinical development, but we are excited by the possibilities that these novel molecules may provide to physicians, patients and caregivers facing these disorders."

- read the statement

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