BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Neuro3d SA, a company set up in 2000 to discover and develop drugs to treat diseases of the central nervous system, acquired the French contract research organization Neurofit SA.

CEO of Neuro3d, Charles Woler, declined to tell BioWorld International how much it paid for Neurofit and whether the deal was for cash, stock or a combination of the two.

Strasbourg-based Neurofit was established in 1996 and is specialized in in vitro/in vivo preclinical pharmacological studies of therapeutics for central and peripheral nervous system disorders. The firm's customers include some of the big names in the international pharmaceutical industry - such as Novartis, Sanofi-Synthélabo, Serono and Biogen - and the academic institutions it is associated with include the Institut Pasteur in Paris, the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, the University of San Diego and McGill University in Montreal.

Neurofit has become a division of Neuro3d, of Mulhouse, also in eastern France, so the company now has the means to handle all its preclinical research and development in-house. It has retained Neurofit's laboratories in Strasbourg, where it will continue to provide services to other companies in the areas of PNS disorders and pain under the Neurofit name. That is an activity in which Neuro3d is not engaged and is being conducted as a totally separate business. Woler said, "There is a firewall between the company's internal activities and the services provided to third parties."

He added that he expected those external services to generate revenues of at least €1 million a year and that he had launched a "business development initiative to expand these activities." Neurofit "has had its ups and downs," he said, and was not making a profit at the time of the takeover.

Neuro3d has taken advantage of Neurofit's laboratories to install an electrophysiological platform there, which it is to use for developing pharmacological tests to complement its existing battery. Those will enable it to carry out the profiling of new compounds in an "even more relevant" fashion.

The company is targeting three psychiatric disorders in particular: schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. Woler said its development program was proceeding "on schedule," with one product currently undergoing a Phase I trial and two more due to enter clinical development in late 2003 and early 2004.

Its lead drug candidate is ocaperidone, an atypical anti-psychotic for the treatment of schizophrenia nearing the end of a Phase I trial in France. Woler said a Phase II trial would start at several centers in Europe in August and be completed around the middle of 2004.

Under a licensing agreement signed in March 2002, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, the Belgium-based subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J., has an option to acquire exclusive worldwide rights to the product. Janssen will decide whether to take up its licensing rights upon completion of the Phase II trial. If it decides not to, Neuro3d has the right to license it out to another company.

The next two products in Neuro3d's pipeline are candidates for the treatment of depression and anxiety, respectively. Both were taken into preclinical development in 2002.

Neuro3d's business strategy is to establish proof of concept in man for its drug candidates and take them as far as Phase II clinical trials before licensing them out. Since it was founded in late 2000, Neuro3d has raised total funding of €27.6 million in two stages. Its second financing round was completed in September 2002 and netted €20 million.