Boehringer takes a neuroscience approach to obesity with latest deal

Boehringer Ingelheim is pairing up with a small California biotech to explore the role circuits in the nervous system play in obesity, scouting for drug targets that could spur weight loss.

Under the three-year deal, Boehringer will work alongside Menlo Park's Circuit Therapeutics, using the company's proprietary platform to figure out which neural pathways relate to regulating body weight and food intake. Neither firm is disclosing financial details.

Circuit's in-house technology is focused on optogenetics, a discipline that uses light-sensing proteins to boost or block individual circuits in the nervous system. And picking apart the relationship between neuronal activity and physical response allows Circuit to peer in on the fundamental biology behind diseases, the company said.

Boehringer, working to expand its pipeline in the cardiometabolic field, figures adding Circuit's approach to its existing efforts in obesity will help generate novel shots on goal in what is becoming a global epidemic.

"This new technology may enable us to unravel the neurological circuits responsible for metabolic disorders down to individual neurons which could lead to the identification of new targets and subsequently new treatments in line with our corporate vision of improving patients' lives," Boehringer Senior Vice President Michel Pairet said in a statement.

The partnership builds upon a 2013 agreement between the two companies focused on psychiatric disorders. Using Circuit's same optogenetics technology, the pair have discovered some early targets against anhedonia, and Boehringer plans to push those forward into preclinical development.

- read the statement