AstraZeneca dumps another round of drugs on partner Targacept

AstraZeneca ($AZN) is again turning its back on some projects developed alongside Targacept ($TRGT), handing back several preclinical assets but holding onto a once-promising Alzheimer's disease treatment that may have some use in another indication.

In a terse filing, Targacept disclosed that its partner is terminating development efforts on an undisclosed number of early-stage drugs, promising to send them back to the North Carolina biotech within 90 days. However, the collaboration with AstraZeneca "continues in full force and effect for remaining compounds, including AZD1446," a drug the two had been developing for Alzheimer's.

AstraZeneca put that very molecule on its long list of discontinued products last week, briefly noting that it pulled the plug on the Alzheimer's program due to safety and efficacy problems. But the global giant hasn't given up on AZD1446 just yet, hanging onto the compound as it assesses an undisclosed potential indication, Targacept said.

Still, Targacept's pipeline is only getting thinner. In December, the company bailed out on TC-5619 after the drug missed its primary and secondary endpoints in a Phase IIb study for schizophrenia after failing a trial in ADHD. And the previously AstraZeneca-partnered TC-5214 endured four Phase III setbacks that forced Targacept to cut its payroll and refocus its R&D efforts. That drug is now in a Phase IIb study with overactive bladder patients.

AstraZeneca tweaked its 8-year relationship with Targacept in May, as well, handing back the Alzheimer's hopeful TC-1734 and leaving its partner to go it alone. Targacept is now in the midst of a Phase IIb trial for that drug and expects to report some top-line results by mid-year.

- read the filing