BrainCells grabs neuropsych therapy in $51M licensing pact

Just six months after gaining control of the mid-stage neuropsychiatric drug sabcomeline through an acquisition of Minster Pharmaceuticals, the UK's Proximagen has inked a deal licensing out its rights to BrainCells for up to $51 million in upfront fees and milestones. Proximagen touted its deal-making skills, but didn't break out how much it will bank from the upfront and how much is being risked on future milestones.

San Diego-based BrainCells will now step in and take control of the program, which is partnered with GlaxoSmithKline, with plans to launch a Phase II study of the drug as an augmentation to SSRIs for major depression. Researchers will also look for an improvement in cognitive function.

This new licensing pact comes just two months after BrainCells management was left to flounder after its lead therapy failed a mid-stage study for major depression. BrainCells' BCI-540 worked no better than a placebo in the study, though researchers flagged an apparent benefit among a subpopulation of patients suffering from a combination of depression and anxiety. This pact gives the biotech a new shot at stepping back into a key development phase for a new therapy. Sabcomeline is a muscarinic receptor partial agonist which was originally developed by GSK for Alzheimer's before flunking a late-stage study.

"Proximagen's focus is on neurological conditions, primarily Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, cognition and pain, and it therefore makes strategic sense for us to divest sabcomeline, a drug program developed for neuropsychiatric indications, to BrainCells, a company with particular expertise in neurogenesis and neuropsychiatric disorders," says Proximagen CEO Kennetyh Mulvaney. "With the signing of this agreement, we will have partnered both Minster programs within six months of the acquisition of Minster, retaining the EU rights for tonabersat and an economic interest in sabcomeline through future milestone payments and royalties."

- check out the Proximagen release