BioWorld International Correspondent

BORNHEIM, Germany Paion GmbH and Millennium Inc. are cooperating in the clinical development of MLN519, Millennium’s compound for the treatment of stroke and other neurological disorders. Through the deal, Paion adds the second clinical product to its pipeline.

Paion, of Aachen, Germany, receives European marketing rights for MLN519. The company is responsible for all development activity including costs. Also, it would pay clinical milestones and royalties on European sales.

Millennium, of Cambridge, Mass., retains exclusive commercial rights in North America and parts of Asia, along with the right to opt back into development at any point during clinical development, Paion said. Millennium would pay royalties on sales in Millennium’s territories, Paion said.

“We start where most young biotech companies finish, namely with clinical development,” Paion Managing Director and CEO Wolfgang Soehngen told BioWorld International. “This is the biggest value-creating part of the business. We started with people providing expertise in clinical research and then looked for promising compounds.”

Paion’s most advanced clinical project is Desmoteplase, a genetically engineered thrombolytic protein from the saliva of the vampire bat Desmodus rotundus. Desmoteplase is undergoing Phase II trials in acute ischemic stroke.

Paion was granted exclusive development rights for Desmoteplase from the Berlin-based pharmaceutical company Schering AG in 2000, and expects to receive payments on clinical milestones. If marketed, Schering will sell the product and pay royalties to Paion, Soehngen said.

Soehngen expects MLN519 to enter Phase II trials by the end of the year. MLN519 affects inflammation pathways after a stroke, Paion and Millennium said in a joint statement. The compound could possibly work synergistically with current stroke therapies.

“We aspire to initiate a combination trial with our thrombolytic Desmoteplase in the not-so-distant future,” Soehngen said.

Paion currently is negotiating another deal with a pharmaceutical company, expected to be signed in the next few months. The deal would focus on a neuroprotective compound that might be combined with other drugs in stroke therapy, Soehngen explained.

Researchers in Paion’s Berlin-based research center focus on discovery and development of drugs for the treatment of stroke and related fields of neuronal damage and thrombotic disease. “We identify proteins [with desired effects] usually from animal organs and then look for homologies in human proteins,” he said.

Paion also will look at the activity and feasibility of using animal proteins, Soehngen said.

The compounds under investigation in Berlin include a protein based on a saliva protein of the insect Triatoma pallipidennis. Paion expects to drive it into clinical trials in 2004, Soehngen said. This product is one of three preclinical protein drugs Paion bought from Schering.

The company employs a staff of 58. To date Pain has raised EUR32 million in venture capital.

Millennium plans to make a convertible loan to Paion prior to its next financing round and an initial equity investment in Paion, when it concludes its next financing round, both companies said.