Evotec strikes an R&D deal focused on addiction

The R&D innovators at Evotec have signed a deal to lend their drug discovery muscle to U.K. biotech C4X Discovery, hoping to develop selective drugs that can combat addiction without druggy side effects.

Under the agreement, Evotec will apply its discovery platform--which includes a sizable molecule database and screening technology to crawl it--and help C4XD get moving on drugs that block the body's orexin neurotransmitters.

The goal of the collaboration is specificity, Evotec said. The orexin-1 receptor is associated with stress-related addictive disorders, like for nicotine or alcohol, while the orexin-2 receptor is closely tied to wakefulness. Thus, the partners hope to block the former while leaving the latter untouched, treating the body's addictive edge without spurring drowsiness.

C4XD, which pulled off an £11 million ($18 million) London IPO last year, spun out of the University of Manchester in 2008 with hopes of using its proprietary spin on nuclear magnetic resonance technology to craft new therapeutics. And Evotec, with its experience in discovery, believes it's the ideal partner to take that ambition forward.

"C4XD has an exciting technology that can really revolutionize how rational drug design is conducted, particularly on targets like orexin where the conformation of drug-like ligands is particular important to on-target potency," Evotec COO Mario Polywka said in a statement. "With Evotec's complementary expertise in computational chemistry, medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, we look forward to help drive C4XD's objective to develop compounds to treat addictive disorders."

Meanwhile, Evotec is looking forward to a big year as it prepares to sign an expansive deal with Sanofi ($SNY) in which the drugmaker will invest at least €250 million ($310 million) over 5 years in Evotec, handing over a French research site and forging deep R&D ties with the company.

Evotec splits its business into two halves: EVT Execute, which operates like a CRO, and EVT Innovate, which outlicenses internally developed candidates. The former half largely pays the bills, thanks to risk-sharing deals with the likes of Boehringer Ingelheim and Roche ($RHHBY), but Evotec has taken strides to build up its internal efforts through acquisitions and licensing agreements.

- read the statement