BALTIMORE, MD -- (Marketwire) -- 03/20/13 -- Cerecor Inc, a neuroscience biotech company that develops therapies that have the potential to make a difference in diseases with high unmet medical needs, today announced that it has acquired exclusive, worldwide rights to develop, register and commercialize agents that inhibit catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitors ("COMT inhibitors"), previously discovered and owned by Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada.
COMT is an enzyme that breaks down dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in higher brain functions such as motivation, cognition and emotion. Drugs that inhibit COMT have been used to treat patients with Parkinson's disease; however, they have poor brain penetration and limited safety and tolerability. COMT inhibition also has broad potential applicability in other CNS diseases, such as addictive behaviors and schizophrenia, by specifically increasing dopamine levels in areas of the brain affected by these conditions. While the development of schizophrenia drugs to date has focused on reducing psychosis, improvement in functional outcome has been largely unattainable because current drugs do not have clinically significant impact on the "negative symptoms" and cognitive impairment of the disease. Drugs that inhibit COMT improve working memory and other measures of cognitive function in animals and in clinical studies (normal subjects and in schizophrenics).
"Merck has developed an innovative COMT platform that has addressed the toxicity associated with existing COMT drugs. By accessing this platform, Cerecor broadens its cognition pipeline, which also includes DAAO inhibitors. This enhances our leadership in neuropsychiatric drug development," stated Dr. Reza Mazhari, Cerecor's VP of Drug Discovery and Development.
Under the terms of the agreement, Cerecor will evaluate more than 2,000 molecules and select lead candidates for clinical development. Consideration includes milestone payments and royalties consistent with other preclinical licenses in neuroscience. Cerecor anticipates completing the technology transfer activities in 2013.
"Adding COMT inhibitors to our drug development portfolio enhances our mission. Cerecor continues to focus on targets or technologies that have demonstrated human proof of concept, and for which biomarkers could be used to steer early clinical development. We are delighted that Merck has chosen Cerecor to help realize the value of such an innovative body of work as contained within their COMT patent portfolio," added Dr. Blake Paterson, Cerecor's co-founder and CEO.
"Cerecor's approach to the development of safe and effective therapies, combined with its experienced management team, makes them an ideally suited to help advance this platform targeted for the treatment of CNS diseases," said Dr. Richard Hargreaves, Vice President, Worldwide Head of Basic Research, Neuroscience, Merck Research Laboratories.
Cerecor Inc is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription pharmaceuticals whose primary activity is in the human nervous system. We are a Delaware corporation, based in Baltimore and co-founded in April 2011 by Drs. Solomon Snyder, Barbara Slusher, Blake Paterson and Mr. Isaac Blech. Cerecor is focused on translational medicine -- the accelerated transfer of technology from the laboratory to early human trials, with the mission of commercializing therapeutics that make a difference.