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Merck & Co signs deal with Amathus for neurodegenerative diseases

Collaboration will focus on developing small molecules for undisclosed disease targets

Merck & Co has signed a strategic collaboration agreement with Amathus Therapeutics focused on developing novel small molecule candidates for neurodegenerative diseases.

Merck & Co – known as MSD outside the US and Canada – will pay an undisclosed upfront payment as part of the deal.

Amathus will also be eligible for milestone payments for the successful development of candidates exceeding $500m per programme.

If Merck & Co exercises its option to assume the clinical development of any of these programmes, it will be solely responsible for subsequent development and commercialisation.

In addition, Merck & Co will also retain the option to acquire Amathus and its pipeline containing mitochondrial targeted candidates for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders and renal diseases.

“We are excited to be working with the Amathus team to investigate the company’s novel mitochondrial targeted candidates for the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions,” said Fiona Marshall, senior vice president, head of discovery sciences and translational medicine, Merck Research Laboratories.

“External collaborations that supplement and complement our internal pipeline programmes remain a cornerstone of Merck’s discovery strategy,” she added.

Amathus will be responsible for identifying and progressing novel ‘chaperone activators’ through preclinical discovery and application as part of the collaboration.

The focus of the deal, according to Amathus president and chief scientific officer Edward Holson, will be on exploiting genetically defined pathways and core pathologies across a number of disease indications.

Amathus identifies organelle specific chaperones – such as mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum chaperones – to address and target cellular stress response pathways for potential therapeutic benefit in multiple diseases.

“The Amathus team has demonstrated activation of molecular chaperones is possible and the potential to address core mitochondrial dysfunction with specificity holds tremendous therapeutic potential,” said Holson.

“The Merck neuroscience team is an ideal partner to translate this novel approach into potential first-in-class, disease modifying treatments for patients with neurodegenerative diseases,” he added.

Amathus is a spin-out from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Mount Sinai Health System faculty and the laboratory of professor Yiannis Ioannou and founded by Sanofi Ventures.

The company is funded by Sanofi Ventures, as well as the Dementia Discovery Fund.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

18th March 2021

From: Research

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