Cephalon Inc. on Tuesday said it has signed a research,development and licensing agreement with Boston Universitygiving the company exclusive rights to research two newclasses of enzymes thought to play an important role inAlzheimer's disease.

The two enzymes, called serine protease and cysteine protease,may be partly responsible for the amyloid plaques that aredeposited in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, causing thedeath of certain neurons and subsequent dementia.

Amyloid plaques are insoluble pieces of amyloid precursorprotein. Proteases are enzymes that break up proteins. Thenew types were discovered by Carmela Abraham, assistantprofessor of medicine and biochemistry at BU.

"We hope (these proteases) have a role in the abnormaldegradation of amyloid precursor protein that occurs inAlzheimer's," Abraham told BioWorld. "We still have to proveit. Once we prove that, we can design protease inhibitors toinhibit their activity."

Abraham's work complements Cephalon's research on clipsin, achymotrypsin-like protease that has also been implicated inthe formation of amyloid plaques. Chymotrypsin is a proteaseused in digestion to break down amino acids.

Cephalon began a collaborative arrangement with theuniversity to fund Abraham's work last June.

Also last June, Cephalon and Schering-Plough Corp. signed afive-year, $20 million deal to develop drugs to treatAlzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders. TheAlzheimer's research focuses on preventing the formation ofamyloid plaques.

Cephalon stock (NASDAQ:CEPH) closed Tuesday at $16, up 13cents. Cephalon, based in West Chester, Pa., completed an initialpublic offering at $18 per share in April.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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