BioWorld International Correspondent

Sienabiotech SpA entered its first major drug discovery collaboration, an alliance with Wyeth to identify and develop compounds as candidate treatments for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Terms were not disclosed, but Wyeth will pay Siena, Italy-based Sienabiotech a series of up-front, milestone and royalty payments based on development and commercialization of compounds. Wyeth, of Madison, N.J., will have exclusive worldwide marketing rights to developed compounds. Sienabiotech will retain rights to develop compounds in undisclosed orphan indications.

"It will really depend on the kinds of molecules we find," said Gianluca Breghi, vice president of finance and business development at Sienabiotech.

The companies had, he said, been working in similar areas, although he declined to disclose the targets that are being included in the collaboration. "Wyeth has a very high-profile pipeline in the area of neurodegenerative disease, and this was an opportunity for them to work on another program," he said. "It's a mutually beneficial agreement."

For Sienabiotech, the deal also brings the validation of having a big pharma partner on board. The company, which has maintained a low profile up to now, was formally incorporated in 2000, but only became operational in 2002. Its principal shareholder is the Siena-based institution Monte dei Paschi Foundation. The company's founder and CEO, Giovanni Gaviraghi, held a series of senior research posts at London-based GlaxoSmithKline plc during a 20-year career in the former Glaxo and Glaxo Wellcome organizations. The rest of the senior management team also comprises ex-big pharma executives. The company has 60 employees in R&D, said Breghi, while its total work force is more than 80.

In addition to neurodegenerative disease, Sienabiotech also has research programs in brain cancer.

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