BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - ExonHit Therapeutics SA attained its first research milestone in its collaboration with Allergan Inc. by delivering an orally active small-molecule drug for neuropathic pain.

The drug is synthesized to modulate a pathway identified in tissues taken from Allergan's disease models.

Paris-based ExonHit identified the pathway using its Differential Analysis of Transcripts with Alternative Splicing (DATAS) technology. Allergan, of Irvine, Calif., earlier demonstrated that the compound had a good profile in in vivo preclinical models of neuropathic pain.

The three-year agreement signed in December 2002 covers three therapeutic fields - neurodegenerative diseases, pain and ophthalmology. It provides for ExonHit to identify new molecular targets from various libraries, as well as tissue samples and model systems, and for the companies jointly to develop compounds and commercial products based on those targets.

ExonHit will retain intellectual property rights to all compounds not developed, but the companies will co-own any taken into development. ExonHit also will retain co-development and co-commercialization options in therapeutic areas outside Allergan's specialist areas.

In November 2003, ExonHit delivered a small-molecule target to Allergan for high-throughput screening, but the therapeutic field was not disclosed. There was no milestone for that achievement, but there now is because, as ExonHit CEO Bruno Tocqué said, the proof-of-concept stage has been reached.

ExonHit's own lead compound also is a small-molecule drug with the potential to treat several neurodegenerative diseases, as well as retinitis pigmentosa. The company has two new chemical entities in preclinical development for cancer and ocular revascularization disorders.

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