Durect, Zogenix in deal for drug that could rival major J&J treatment

Durect has bounced back some from a regulatory setback last month with a brand new pact with developer Zogenix. The two companies struck a deal to develop a long-acting version of the antipsychotic drug risperidone, aiming to top the duration of Johnson & Johnson's blockbuster schizophrenia treatment Risperdal Consta.

With the deal, Durect ($DDRX) gets $2.25 million upfront from Zogenix ($ZGNX) and the chance to reap $103 million in future payments. While these aren't huge sums, consider that that the companies' antipsychotic drug hasn't even entered clinical trials yet. Zogenix, which will take on all development and commercialization of the drug, aims to seek regulators' permission to begin a Phase I trial early next year, with the intent to develop the treatment for schizophrenia.

For Durect, which is providing the technology for extending release of risperidone, the deal might help the firm recover a bit from a disappointment last month, when the FDA gave Pfizer ($PFE) and Pain Therapeutics ($PTIE) a disappointing complete response letter related to Remoxy, an extended-release version of oxycodone that uses Durect's tech.

Zogenix plans to develop its version of risperidone called Relday that is given to patients once per month, using both Durect's tech and its own subcutaneous delivery system. Relday, if proven safe and effective, could offer more convenience to patients than twice-monthly injections of J&J's ($JNJ) Risperdal, which uses drug delivery tech from Alkermes ($ALKS). Still, it'll likely be years before Zogenix and Durect's contender poses any challenge to J&J's drug, which brought in sales of $1.5 billion in 2010, according to Durect.

- here's Durect's release
- check out Reuters' coverage