June 15, 2009 / 12:57 PM / 10 years ago

Boehringer, Vitae ink $242 mln Alzheimer's deal

* $42 mln upfront, $200 mln pre-commercial milestones

* Collaboration covers beta-secretase inhibitors

LONDON, June 15 (Reuters) - Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim has signed a deal worth up to $242 million with U.S. biotech company Vitae Pharmaceuticals to research and develop new Alzheimer’s drugs, the companies said on Monday.

Vitae will get $42 million upfront — consisting of cash, an equity investment and near-term research funding — and will also be eligible for $200 million in pre-commercial milestone payments, depending on the progress of products in development.

Vitae may receive additional commercial performance payments and royalties from Boehringer on potential future sales.

The partners, both of which are unlisted, will be working to develop drugs that inhibit beta-secretase, an enzyme responsible for the build-up of sticky deposits, or plaques, in the brain.

The formation of these plaques is thought to play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and several companies are working on beta-secretase inhibitors to tackle the degenerative disorder.

Alzheimer’s is a hot area for pharmaceutical research, since the incidence of the brain disease is rising rapidly as people live longer. But developing effective treatments has proved notoriously difficult.

Existing drugs, such as Aricept from Pfizer (PFE.N) and Eisai (4523.T), can ease symptoms but do not stop the disease. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Simon Jessop)

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