Merck & Co. Inc. is paying Synaptic Pharmaceutical Corp. up to$20 million for a series of compounds that may be useful intreating urinary retention problems associated withenlargement of the prostate gland, Synaptic announced Friday.
Synaptic said laboratory tests have shown that the compounds,alpha adrenergic neuroreceptor blockers, cause the smoothmuscles of the prostate to relax, relieving the pressure that anenlarged prostate places on the urethra. Synaptic is continuingchemistry studies and analyzing the compounds to find apossible lead candidate.
Merck (NYSE:MRK) of Rahway, N.J., will continue preclinicaldevelopment of the compounds, conduct any future clinicaltrials and file for regulatory approval with FDA. In return,Synaptic will receive an up-front licensing fee, milestonepayments and funding for a research and developmentcollaboration, which it said could total up to $20 million. Inaddition, the company will receive a royalty on product sales.
The acquisition of the compounds will fit well with Merck'sProscar (finasteride), currently on the market for benignprostatic hyperplasia, a non-cancerous enlargement of theprostate gland. The National Cancer Institute is also funding a$60 million trial of Proscar for prevention of prostate cancer.Launched in October, the study is to include 18,000 men age 55and older at 222 study sites in the U.S.
Privately held Synaptic of Paramus, N.J., was founded in 1987as Neurogenetic Corp. and changed its name in 1992. Its"human target-based drug design" technology finds genes for aneuroreceptor target, then makes compounds against thistarget. Synaptic has several compounds in preclinicals,including serotonergic compounds for such indications asmigraine headaches, depression and anxiety, an alpha-2 agonistfor analgesia and anesthesia and neuropeptide Y for appetitecontrol.
The company has a 1991 agreement with Eli Lilly and Co. forthe design of serotonergic drugs, which modulate the serotoninreceptor system. Synaptic's president and chief executiveofficer, Kathleen Mullinix, said the company has discovered anumber of serotonin receptor subtypes.
-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor
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