Merck dumps Parkinson's program at Addex Pharma

Merck has dealt some bad news to Swiss developer Addex Pharmaceuticals ($ADXN). The drug giant ($MRK), which has been culling R&D projects as it prioritizes its pipeline, has handed back to Addex rights to an mGluR4 positive allosteric modulator (PAM) program the companies had been working on for Parkinson's disease.

It's another setback for Addex, which has experienced some rough patches this year, including the elimination of 25% of its workers in a restructuring move and the unexpected departure of CEO Vincent Mutel. It's now losing one of its marquee partnerships amid a hunt for new collaborators to buy into its allosteric modulation-based discovery platform.

"We continue to strongly believe that mGluR4 is a highly attractive target for treating Parkinson's and other serious diseases," Bharatt Chowrira, Addex's recently appointed CEO, said. "We recognize the substantial challenges for the pharmaceutical industry today and we thank our partner for this collaboration and the significant advances we made together in targeting this important receptor. We remain committed to pursuing mGluR4 PAM for Parkinson's and other diseases."

At the start of the Merck deal in 2007, Addex grabbed $3 million upfront with the promise of up to $106.5 million in potential payments. It's working with its other major collaborator, Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen, on an mGluR2 PAM against schizophrenia.

- here's the release