After a $560M Allergan buyout, Naurex vets regroup for CNS R&D

The brains behind Naurex, a drug developer acquired by Allergan ($AGN) for $560 million up front, have put the band back together, starting a new biotech with their old company's technology and setting their sights on central nervous system disorders.

The new operation, Aptinyx, is spinning out of Naurex with much of its management team in tow, reuniting founders with the discovery platform behind the depression drug that first caught Allergan's eye. Aptinyx is getting started with some early-stage oral treatments that modulate the brain's NMDA receptors, a pathway the company believes has wide potential beyond GLYX-13, Allergan's new late-stage antidepressant.

Under the terms of its spinout, Aptinyx is collaborating with Allergan on the discovery and preclinical development of some NMDA modulators for undisclosed psychiatric and neurologic disorders, and the Big Pharma has the right to in-license those as they progress. But the new company retains full rights to everything outside that umbrella, and Aptinyx is working through early-stage studies in traumatic brain injury, neuropathic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and epilepsy.

The arrangement, Aptinyx CEO Norbert Riedel said, makes use of each party's strengths. Allergan, a multinational giant, is well suited to take GLYX-13 through Phase III development, regulatory review and commercialization. But the company, under CEO Brent Saunders, has made no secret of its aversion to early drug development, preferring to leave that work to biotech and academia in favor of stepping in after the proof-of-concept stage. And Aptinyx is happy to fill that role in NMDA modulation, Riedel said.

As for the company's proprietary assets, Aptinyx is in the preclinical stage with a handful of assets and expects to identify its first disease targets in the coming months. If everything goes according to plan, the company should be ready to start its first clinical trial in summer 2016, Riedel said.

Aptinyx rallied some of Naurex's investors to raise seed money for its preclinical projects, but the biotech plans to put together a Series A financing round in the coming months to fund its clinical aspirations, he said.

Riedel, who served as CEO of Naurex, said his old company negotiated what would become Aptinyx into the Allergan buyout deal "to maintain the truly enormous value that remained in the early stage pipeline and our proprietary platform."

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