Athena Neurosciences Inc. said it has formed an agreementwith NeuroSearch A/S of Copenhagen, Denmark, to jointlydevelop new treatments for neurological diseases.

Under the terms of the deal, Athena will make $10 million inmilestone payments to NeuroSearch over the next three yearsto fund the continued development of promising smallmolecule leads discovered by NeuroSearch, subject to certainrights of early termination and the achievement of milestones.

In return, Athena will have exclusive rights to commercializeany products resulting from the partnership in North America,while NeuroSearch will retain exclusive rights in Scandinavia.Both companies will share equal rights in other markets.

Athena spokeswoman Lisa Dodge said the partnership is thefirst time the South San Francisco, Calif., company has fundedanother company's research outside of its academicrelationships.

The Athena/NeuroSearch partnership, already under way atboth sites, is researching neuronal calcium channel regulationwith an initial focus on developing a treatment for strokes,Dodge told BioWorld.

According to Athena, NeuroSearch has synthesized a series ofpotent and selective neuronal calcium channel blockers basedon studies of the electrophysiology of various subtypes ofcalcium channels in cultured nerve cells.

"NeuroSearch has made impressive progress in discoveringsmall molecule regulators of neuronal calcium channels thatcan form the basis of a significant collaboration in thisimportant field," said John Groom, president and chiefexecutive officer of Athena,

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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