Synaptic Pharmaceutical Corp. and Eli Lilly and Co. extended theirdevelopment collaboration on drugs that modulate serotoninreceptors for four years, the companies said Wednesday.

Synaptic, of Paramus, N.J., and Indianapolis-based Lilly initiallystarted collaborating in January 1991. The new pact took effect Jan.1.

Lilly, which made an equity investment of $2.5 million in the originaldeal, will make a similar investment this time, as well as fundingresearch and making milestone payments, said Kathleen Mullinix,president and CEO of Synaptic. The private company also will getroyalties on sales.

The collaborators are using Synaptic's "human target-based drugdesign" technology to develop small molecule drugs that selectivelyact on a specific serotonin receptor. Mullinix told BioWorld thatLilly has compounds in preclinical development for "a couple of[undisclosed] applications. Lilly is hoping candidates for otherapplications will continue to be produced."

Serotonin receptors have been implicated in central nervous systemdisorders such as migraine headaches and depression.

Synaptic also has drug-discovery collaborations ongoing with Merck& Co., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., and Ciba-Geigy Ltd., of Basel,Switzerland. The Merck deal, signed in November 1993, could beworth up to $20 million to Synaptic. They are developing compoundsto treat urinary retention problems associated with enlargement of theprostate gland. The Ciba deal, signed last August, is focused onneuropeptide receptors involved in overeating and other risk factorsassociated with cardiovascular disease.

Ciba has a stake of about 7 percent in Synaptic. Lilly's held 5.2percent of Synaptic before the collaboration extension, Mullinix said._ Jim Shrine

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