Athena Neurosciences Inc. announced on Tuesday that it haslicensed from Sandoz Pharma Ltd. exclusive U.S. and Canadianrights to tizanidine, a treatment for the spasticity associatedwith multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular diseases.

The agreement contains an up-front payment and royalties toSandoz, said Athena President John Groom. Sandoz, which sellstizanidine in Europe and Japan, will provide the drug toAthena, he said.

The licensing of tizanidine, an organic drug, is a first step inAthena's strategy to acquire "relatively low-risk drugs" thatrequire only the final stages of development, said Groom. Thedevelopment and marketing of such drugs will supportAthena's long-term research efforts on Alzheimer's disease andthe blood-brain barrier, he said. The strategy also enablesAthena to have the skills in place when its own products areready for clinical development and sales, he added.

Privately held Athena, based in South San Francisco, Calif., willcarry out Phase III clinical testing of tizanidine, with the goalof filing a new drug application with the Food and DrugAdministration by the end of 1992, said Groom. He said some75,000 MS patients in the United States could benefit fromtizanidine. -- By Carol Talkington Verser, Ph.D.

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