By David Firn in
Published: December 12 2000 12:16GMT
Last Updated: December 12 2000 18:40GMT
Serono, the Swiss bio-technology group, is to collaborate with Vertex, the US drug discovery company, on the development of treatments for neurological disorders, inflammatory diseases and cardiovascular disease.
The companies aim to develop a new class of drugs that inhibit the action of caspase, a natural protein that triggers cell death.
Drugs that inhibit caspase could treat a range of problems, ranging from acute conditions such as stroke and heart attacks to chronic diseases such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.
The deal is part of Serono's strategy to reduce its dependence on multiple sclerosis and infertility treatments without having to merge with another company.
Serono has a similar agreement with British Biotech, covering metaloenzymes.
Leon Bushara, head of business development at Serono, said the deals allowed the company to exploit its expertise in clinical development of drugs without having to invest in highly-speculative basic compound discovery.
Serono will pay Vertex Dollars 5m for the work it has already done on caspase plus up to Dollars 20m to cover further development.
Vertex could earn up to Dollars 95m in fees if the project results in successful drugs as well as a share of any profits.
"We think that's
an efficient way to spend our R&D dollars," said Mr Bushara.