Cerecor Acquired COMT Inhibitors and MK-0657 Rights from Merck
On Apr. 19, 2013, Cerecor, a Baltimore-based biotech focused on neuroscience, has picked up two CNS programs from the U.S. drug giant Merck.
Cerecor acquired the exclusive global rights to MK-0657, an NR2B antagonist, as well as similar rights to catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) (which was acquired on Mar. 20, 2013) inhibitors from Merck. Merck initially studied MRK-0657 for Parkinson's disease , yet Cerecor found that the compound impacts a pathway involving depression and other disorders. The COMT inhibitors also offer the potential to treat multiple neuroscience targets.
COMT is an enzyme that catalyzes the transfer of a methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine to catecholamines, including the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. This O-methylation results in one of the major degradative pathways of the catecholamine transmitters. In addition to its role in the metabolism of endogenous substances, COMT is important in the metabolism of catechol drugs used in the treatment of hypertension, asthma, and Parkinson disease. COMT is found in two forms in tissues, a soluble form (S-COMT) and a membrane-bound form (MB-COMT). The differences between S-COMT and MB-COMT reside within the N-termini. Several transcript variants are formed through the use of alternative translation initiation sites and promoters.
According to the terms of the agreement, Cerecor will evaluate more than 2,000 molecules and select lead candidates for clinical development and the transfer is hoped to finish in this year.