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Novartis Licensing Depression Therapy Technology

Man in pain

(Lloyd Morgan, Flickr)

19 October 2015. Luc Therapeutics, a biotechnology company designing treatments for psychiatric and neurological disorders, is licensing part of its technology to the pharmaceutical company Novartis to develop treatments for depression. Dollar amounts paid under the agreement to Luc Therapeutics, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, were not disclosed.

Depression is a widespread condition, which when it becomes persistent or severe, can interfere with normal family and work life, and lead to disability. Some forms of depression are seasonal, linked in women to childbirth, or develop as a type of psychosis. National Institute of Mental Health estimates in 2013, 15.7 million adults in the U.S., or 6.7 percent of the adult population, suffered a major depressive episode in the previous 12 months.

Luc Therapeutics, founded in 2010 as Mnemosyne Pharmaceuticals, discovers therapies for people living with psychiatric and neurological diseases. Its technology seeks to regulate N-Methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA receptors, molecules found in synapses, the part of nerve cells that permit sending and receiving of signals. NMDA receptors help keep synapses flexible, which affects memory, learning, and development of the central nervous system.

Under the agreement, Novartis receives an exclusive license to Luc Therapeutics’ intellectual property that focuses on regulation of a part of NMDA receptors known as NR2B that interacts with proteins associated with several neurological functions and disorders. In this case, Novartis is gaining access to compounds that regulate NMDA receptors containing NR2B. At this time, Novartis has several treatments in its pipeline related to neuroscience, but none for psychiatric disorders.

While dollar amounts were not disclosed, Luc Therapeutics says Novartis will fund all research and development on NR2B-containing NMDA receptors. Luc will receive an initial payment, and be eligible for subsequent developmental and sales milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales of products from the collaboration.

In addition to its work licensed by Novartis, Luc Therapeutics says it will continue its discovery of treatments that stimulate, rather than limit, activity of NMDA receptors. These efforts are expected to lead to agents for addressing cognitive impairment in schizophrenia and other serious psychiatric diseases.

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