QUEBEC CITY, Quebec, FRANKFURT/MAIN, Germany, and BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jan. 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- AEterna Laboratories Inc. (TSX: AEL; Nasdaq: AELA) today announced that its 100%-owned subsidiary Zentaris GmbH and Solvay Pharmaceuticals B.V. have entered into an extensive collaboration agreement. Based on the agreement, Solvay Pharmaceuticals and Zentaris will jointly push ahead Zentaris' research project aimed at developing novel, low molecular weight and orally-bioavailable peptidomimetic LHRH (Luteinizing Hormone Releasing Hormone) antagonists. Potential indications include endometriosis, uterus myoma, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), as well as malignant disorders such as breast and prostate cancer.
As part of the agreement, Solvay Pharmaceuticals secures itself exclusive worldwide rights to all gynecological indications as well as to BPH, while Zentaris retains exclusive rights to all other indications, including oncology. The contract also provides for Zentaris to receive, upon signing, an amount of $5 million resulting from an upfront payment, as well as proceeds from the coverage of past development costs. In addition, the agreement foresees for Solvay to fund further preclinical and clinical development activities to be performed by Zentaris up to a fixed amount and to make milestone payments.
Following Zentaris' ongoing interest in the area of LHRH antagonists, a drug discovery project aiming at the identification of peptidomimetic leads was initiated a few years ago. Such leads are expected to act on the LHRH receptor similar to decapeptides, however, with the crucial benefit of oral bioavailability. Having achieved proof-of-principle regarding oral bioavailability, Zentaris now expects to have a preclinical development candidate available in the course of this year.
"The importance of this agreement to our Company is at least twofold: it manifests the excellent collaboration already in place with Solvay, as evidenced by the current Phase II clinical trials project with Cetrorelix. In addition, it is yet another proof of the research competence and commitment of our internal drug discovery unit," said Dr. Jurgen Engel, Chairman and Managing Director of Zentaris GmbH, Executive Vice President, Global R&D and COO at AEterna.
"We are delighted to partner with such a prestigious company as Solvay," said Gilles Gagnon, President and CEO at AEterna. "The magnitude of this agreement reflects the robustness of our pipeline with products at all stages of development and validates our new business model which encompasses partners at all levels of drug development."
Solvay Pharmaceuticals' global R&D head, Werner Cautreels adds, "Our established marketing franchise in the women's health arena is well positioned to make optimal use of the potential new products coming from Zentaris' novel peptidomimetic LHRH drug discovery activities. We are happy to work with creative people from any source inside or outside our own facilities."
Solvay Pharmaceuticals is the pharmaceutical activities arm of Solvay. Apart from women's and men's health, it is active in carefully selected indications within the fields of cardiovascular, gastroenterological and mental health. It employs some 7,500 people and in 2002, it had a turnover of euro 1.9 billion.
Solvay is an international chemical and pharmaceutical Group with headquarters in Brussels. It employs more than 30,000 people in 50 countries. In 2002, its consolidated sales amounted to euro 7.9 billion, generated by its four sectors of activity: Pharmaceuticals, Chemicals, Plastics and Processing. Solvay is listed on the Euronext 100 Index of top European companies. For further information, please consult: http://www.solvay.com/ and http://www.solvaypharmaceuticals.com/ .
About AEterna Laboratories
AEterna Laboratories along with its wholly-owned subsidiary, Zentaris GmbH, is a biopharmaceutical company with an extensive portfolio of 2 marketed and 10 development-stage products in endocrinology, oncology and infectious diseases. Cetrorelix (Cetrotide(R)) is sold in the U.S. and Europe to the in vitro fertilization market, and is in Phase II clinical trials for endometriosis, uterus myoma and enlarged prostate (BPH). Miltefosine (Impavido(R)) is sold for black fever and has successfully completed a Phase III trial in parasitic skin disease. Neovastat(R) is in a Phase III trial for non-small cell lung cancer. Several other clinical programs are underway with various compounds. Furthermore, AEterna benefits from a discovery platform of 100,000 molecules which is generating promising new compounds.
In addition, AEterna owns 62% of Atrium Biotechnologies Inc. which develops and markets active ingredients and speciality chemicals for the cosmetics, chemical, pharmaceutical and nutritional industries.
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AETERNA LABORATORIES INC.