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Avanir, Concert in Licensing Deal for Neurological Drugs

Brain scan (National Institute of Mental Health)

(National Institute of Mental Health)

The biopharmaceutical company Avanir Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Aliso Viejo, California and the biotechnology firm Concert Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, Massachusetts have agreed on a deal that licenses Concert’s drug-development technology to design treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders. While the companies did not disclose financial details, the industry Web site Xconomy says the deal can provide Concert with milestone payments of at least $200 million.

Concert’s technology uses the element deuterium, a common and safe element derived from water. The human body contains about 2 grams of the element. Deuterium also has an atomic structure much like hydrogen, which in the Concert technology, allows for the substitution of hydrogen with deuterium in chemical compounds.

Because of the similarity to hydrogen, the body processes deuterium-substituted drugs much like those with hydrogen. In addition, deuterium often forms a stronger bond with carbon than hydrogen, which can give some deuterium-substituted compounds more stability, increase their number of desired metabolic outputs, and reduce the formation of toxic metabolites.

In the deal with Avanir, Concert will provide Avanir with the rights to develop and commercialize worldwide Concert’s deuterium-modified version of the drug dextromethorphan (DM). DM affects the signals in the brain that trigger cough reflex, and thus is often found in cough suppressants. Avanir’s drug Nuedexta combines DM with the enzyme inhibitor quinidine to treat neurological disorders, such as involuntary laughing or crying.

Under the agreement, Avanir will conduct further research, and then develop and commercialize Concert’s deuterium-modified dextromethorphan (d-DM) for treating neurological and psychiatric disorders without the use of quinidine. In July, Concert received a patent on its d-DM compounds.

Concert will provide manufacturing support for investigational new drug (IND) studies. Avanir will provide Concert with an upfront payment and subsequent milestone tied to specific clinical, regulatory, and commercial targets. Concert is also eligible for royalties on worldwide sales of products containing d-DM.

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