BioWorld International Correspondent

Shares in NeuroSearch A/S surged more than 50 percent Friday on news of its largest ever deal, a US$80 million pact with Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH to develop its candidate Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s drug, NS2330.

NeuroSearch, of Copenhagen, Denmark, is receiving an up-front payment of $20 million plus milestone payments totaling $60 million. It also will receive royalty payments on eventual drug sales, and it has retained marketing rights for the Nordic and Baltic countries.

Boehringer Ingelheim, of Ingelheim, Germany, is assuming all development costs associated with NS2330. On reaching the first milestone, it has an option to purchase 210,000 new NeuroSearch shares at $47.6 per share instead of making a payment for the equivalent amount.

“It is the first time that we have involved a program partner and licensee as a shareholder,” NeuroSearch President and CEO Jorgen Buus Lassen told BioWorld International. “Our thinking is if our partner is also interested in the company they will be focused long term on being active and interested in the program.”

Following the release of positive Phase IIa data in Alzheimer’s patients last summer, NeuroSearch raised DKK128.6 million (US$15.2 million) in a private placement to advance the NS2330 program. (See BioWorld International, June 27, 2001.)

It has since undertaken additional dosage studies, Buus Lassen said, but it is still finalizing a Phase IIb protocol. This study will commence shortly, he said, and will involve three dosage groups and a placebo group. “We plan to have 80 patients in each group,” he said. NS2330 has also reached the Phase II stage in Parkinson’s, although the program is less advanced in that indication.

NS233 influences the levels of three neurotransmitters, all of which are reduced in Alzheimer’s patients. It blocks reuptake of noradrenaline and dopamine and increases acetylcholine levels via an indirect mechanism, thought to involve the dopamine I system. Unlike currently available acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, however, it appears to have a location-specific effect on levels of acetylcholine, boosting its release in the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex areas of the brain, which, Buus Lassen said, are impaired in Alzheimer’s patients.

The company’s share price rose from DKK130 to DKK200 Friday, but shed some of its gains during trading on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange this week, slipping back to DKK184 by midday Tuesday. The deal will push NeuroSearch into the black for the current year. The company is forecasting between DKK10 million and DKK20 million in profits for 2002.