Synaptic Pharmaceutical Corp. and Ciba-Geigy Ltd. on Wednesdayextended and expanded their collaboration in the areas of obesity andeating disorders.

The companies in August 1994 signed a three-year deal targetingneuropeptide Y (NPY) receptors involved in overeating andcardiovascular disease. The expansion adds another, undisclosedreceptor family, said Robert Spence, chief financial officer atSynaptic.

Neither Synaptic, of Paramus, N.J., nor Ciba, of Basel, Switzerland,would disclose terms of the collaboration. Ciba, however, has made$9.5 million in equity investments to gain a stake of nearly 10 percentin Synaptic.

Ciba has worldwide rights to develop, manufacture and marketproducts resulting from the collaboration. Synaptic is getting researchsupport and could receive milestone payments and sales royalties.

Laboratory work showed that NPY, a peptidic neurotransmitter, is apotent feeding stimulator. Synaptic said it has discovered and clonedthe genes that encode for several NPY subtypes. Receptor subtypesare protein molecules that mediate cell-to-cell signaling.

Spence said the collaborators are probably 18 months or so fromhuman studies in the NPY area. The receptor family targeted in theexpanded part of the alliance also involves eating disorders, he said.

Rainer von Mielecki, head of pharmaceutical communications forCiba, said the collaboration's success to date led to the extension andadded target areas.

"Synaptic is very capable in receptor technology, with cloning humanreceptors" von Mielecki said. The biotechnology company hasparticular expertise in the highly competitive field of obesity, he said."We believe we can cover some ground there."

Mielecki, while not disclosing details, pointed to the Ciba awardgiven to researchers in the program. Each year Ciba awards a PharmaResearch Prize to a project judged to be the highest in scientificquality and innovation, as well as offering significant therapeuticpotential. The award was presented last week to researchers fromCiba and Synaptic, marking the first time scientists from outside thecompany were so acknowledged.

Synaptic went public in December 1995 with the sale of two millionshares at $12 each. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 18, 1995, p. 1.)

Synaptic's stock (NASDAQ:SNAP) gained 75 cents Wednesday toclose at $15.25.

The company has a 1993 collaboration ongoing with Merck & Co.Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., in the area of alpha-1a adrenergicneuroreceptors. The initial focus is benign prostatic hyperplasia. Acollaboration started in 1991 with Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis,focuses on serotonin receptor subtypes for treating migraine, anxietyand depression. n

-- Jim Shrine

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.