SmithKline Beecham tapped another emerging technology onTuesday in an agreement to spend up to $25 million in acollaboration with Cephalon Inc. on compounds for stroke andother neurological disorders.

The West Chester, Pa., neuroscience company also will receivean option to co-promote products in some major pharmaceutical markets, androyalties on product sales in the rest of the world.

Spokeswoman Lyn Hyduke said Cephalon was looking for apartner to co-develop the company's technology becauseclinical trials are costly and complicated in stroke, the onset ofwhich is difficult to predict.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., affectingabout 500,000 people annually. Lasting brain damage fromstroke is a major cause of adult disability. The final step in theprocess leading to neuron death is thought to be mediated byan enzyme called calpain that dissolves the cell skeleton.Normally inactive, the protease is switched on by abnormallyhigh levels of calcium that rush into a neuron once the oxygen-rich blood flows again to the site of the stroke.

Cephalon is developing a library of calpain inhibitors, and thisprogram will be the focus of its collaboration with SmithKlineBeecham (NYSE:SBH) of Philadelphia.

The pharmaceutical company has stepped up its alliances in thepast 18 months, said Jeremy Heymsfeld, vice president ofcommunications. SKB was created in 1989 from the merger ofBeecham Group plc and SmithKline Beckman. Also this year,SmithKline Beecham formed an alliance with Human GenomeSciences of Rockville, Md., to develop products from genesequence data. The pharmaceutical company has alsoannounced collaborations on Lyme disease, quinoloneantibiotics and testosterone patches. Cortex PharmaceuticalsInc. of Irvine, Calif., has been working in calpain inhibitorssince 1989, and licensed neurological applications to AlkermesInc. of Cambridge, Mass., in 1992, said Alan Steigrod, presidentand chief executive officer. Tuesday's announcement"emphasizes the science," Steigrod told BioWorld. He saidCephalon has patent applications dating back to 1990, and hasmore than 200 inhibitors synthesized, which may also apply tothe company's investigations of programmed cell death(apoptosis).

Cephalon's stock was up $1 a share on Tuesday, closing at$12.50.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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

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