By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

Three months after disclosing its hefty deal with Glaxo-SmithKline plc for corticotropin-releasing factor receptor antagonists, Neurocrine Biosciences Inc. got its first milestone payment ¿ $15.5 million, which brings the total received so far to $25.5 million.

Farthest along is NBI-34041, in Phase I trials for anxiety and depression. (See BioWorld Today, July 25, 2001.)

¿[The study] is finished, and they¿re analyzing the data now,¿ said Paul Hawran, executive vice president and chief financial officer for San Diego-based Neurocrine.

¿It¿s dependent on Glaxo, but the data should be ready in the next month or so,¿ he said, adding that the release date is uncertain.

When it disclosed the GSK deal, Neurocrine said up-front fees and early milestone payments would total $25.5 million, plus annual fees for four years, with an option for a fifth. Beyond that money, the company is eligible to receive three-pronged milestone payments, based on applying CRF antagonists to gastrointestinal conditions and mood disorders, as well as an undisclosed area.

¿What¿s nice about the collaboration is that there¿s a milestone payment for each indication,¿ Hawran said. ¿Theoretically, you could have one CRF and five indications.¿

CRFs comprise ¿one of the two core technologies the company was founded on,¿ the other being the insomnia program with NBI-34060, a GABA-A receptor subtype agonist, which recently completed Phase II trials.

¿If [insomnia] hits, it¿s a nice home run, and if CRF hits, it¿s a grand slam,¿ Hawran told BioWorld Today, estimating the insomnia market at $2 billion and the market for anxiety and depression at $15 billion. Neurocrine expects to submit a new drug application in 2003.

The hope for CRFs is that they work faster with fewer side effects, Hawran said.

¿At least in early clinical and preclinical work we¿ve done in CRF, it seems to have an onset of action in 48 hours,¿ he said. ¿It could turn out to be a first-line indication.¿

CRF compounds may do so without such problems for patients as reduced libido, a particularly troubling side effect of some existing treatments.

Neurocrine¿s stock (NASDAQ:NBIX) closed Monday at $42.11, down $2.49.

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