Roche Deal Gives Seaside a Leg Up in Autism Race

6/26/12Follow @arleneweintraub

Two years ago, Xconomy pinpointed a growing “autism mini-cluster” in Boston—a bevy of startups seeking to develop drugs to treat the condition and other brain disorders. Now one resident of that cluster has a major partner on board to help it meet that goal: Cambridge, MA-based Seaside Therapeutics, which announced on June 19 that it had formed a licensing deal with Swiss drug giant Roche.

Under the deal, Roche purchased an option to commercialize Seaside’s lead drug, STX209, which is currently in late-stage trials to treat fragile X syndrome, a genetic disease with symptoms similar to what’s seen in autism. Those include cognitive delays, attention deficit disorder, and antisocial behaviors. STX209 is also in earlier trials to treat autism spectrum disorders. Seaside will continue to develop the drug, and if it meets certain milestones, Roche could exercise the option, providing critical infrastructure necessary to market the drug in the U.S. and overseas, says Randy Carpenter, CEO of Seaside.

In addition, Roche has licensed Seaside’s intellectual property around a class of drugs called mGluR5 antagonists, which target a pathway in the brain that’s believed to play a major role in fragile X. Roche, which had been working on its own mGluR5 drugs, will lead both the R&D and commercialization of compounds in this class that the two companies are examining for developmental disorders.

Seaside did not reveal the financial details of the deal but, says Carpenter, the money isn’t what’s most important to his company. Roche and Seaside had actually been working together informally over the last decade, trying to define the molecular causes of developmental brain disorders and discover potential drug targets, he says. “We’ve shown a lot of what can be shared at the edges of open innovation,” Carpenter says. “Now we can share confidential information, like regulatory documents and relationships with patient advocacy groups.”

The Roche support comes at a crucial juncture for STX209. Seaside is currently completing enrollment for two pivotal late-stage trials of the drug in fragile X, both of which should be completed next year, Carpenter says. The company is primarily looking to prove that … Next Page »

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