Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. signed its third collaboration with Allergan Inc., the eye care giant, continuing a relationship that is pushing six years of existence.

"This is our largest collaboration with Allergan and it is also our third," said Douglas Richards, vice president of business development at Acadia. "Given that, it validates our platform and our approach. We are gratified by this third deal, since they have worked with us twice and are interested in working with us a third time."

The collaboration, which again will focus on eye care applications, gives Allergan the exclusive right to license chemistry and related assets from San Diego-based Acadia for up to three targets. Acadia will receive an undisclosed up-front payment, research funding and additional fees over a three-year term. There are milestone payments built in, as well as royalties, and the successful development of a product from just one of the targets would earn Acadia up to $32 million.

While the rest of the deal's financials remain undisclosed, Richards told BioWorld Today the structure of the deal could push the total value to "significantly higher" heights.

"We have a proprietary platform that enables you to do high-throughput drug discovery," Richards said. "It's not just screening, but it allows you to find specific chemistries to a variety of drug targets. We work in a variety of [G protein-coupled receptor] and nuclear targets quite extensively. This [agreement] will allow Allergan to have access to many of the chemistries for eye care uses."

The companies began their work together, for all intents and purposes, in 1997, although they had collaborated before on a lesser level. That deal focused on identifying drugs from five targets, including the prostanoid and alpha adrenergic receptors, and included up to $68.5 million in equity investments and milestones, plus an undisclosed amount of research funding over three years. Nearly two years later, they struck a deal valued at up to $38 million, including all potential milestones, centered on glaucoma. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 26, 1997, and July 28, 1999.)

In December 2000, and in the midst of a biotechnology heyday, Acadia filed for its public offering, hoping to net $75 million. Things went south for the sector, however, and Acadia withdrew its offering in the fall of 2001. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 27, 2000.)

Acadia is again gathering steam. The company in January put its first product, ACP-103, into the clinic for treatment-induced dysfunction in Parkinson's disease, and anticipates beginning clinical trials soon of ACP-102, a nonopiate GPCR agonist for chronic pain. While ACP-102 arose from work done in collaboration with Allergan, ACP-103 is all Acadia. In January 2002, Acadia and Amgen Inc. signed an agreement to discover small-molecule drugs that could bring Acadia up to $20 million, and also added Aventis SA as a collaborator. Just weeks ago, Acadia raised $25 million in a private placement, enough to give it three years of funding. (See BioWorld Today, March 31, 2003.)

"This has been a tough couple two or three years for the sector, but Acadia has not only withstood it, but we've been able to thrive," Richards said. "Going ahead these are going to be very good years for the company. I think we are poised to break out in a big way.

"We've been a well-kept secret for a while now. Allergan has known from the beginning that we perform well in our collaborations, but the fact that we are adding partners to the roster bodes well. We are being discovered."