On February 7, Beijing time, Lantheus, a Nasdaq-listed company, acquired Cerveau, a Sinotau’s joint venture, for an upfront payment and potential additional development and commercial milestone payments. This transaction is an important milestone in the development of molecular imaging in Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The main asset of Cerveau is the global rights of MK-6240, of which the rights in China are retained by Sinotau after the acquisition. MK-6240 is an 18F-labeled PET imaging agent with a high-affinity to Tau protein. The drug has high contrast in the detection and imaging of Tau protein and can image pathological changes of Tau protein deposition in the brains of AD patients in a non-invasive, accurate, localized and quantitative manner.
AD, also known as senile dementia, is a central nervous system disease characterized by progressive cognitive dysfunction and memory loss. Tau protein is the most abundant microtubule-associated protein in neurons. A large number of studies have shown that hyperphosphorylated Tau protein will form neurofibrillary tangles and accumulate in neurons, which plays an important role in the development of neurodegeneration and learning and memory impairment in AD patients.
As a Tau protein PET imaging agent, MK-6240 is potentially helpful for the screening of patients in the clinical trials of AD therapeutic drugs and the monitoring of the efficacy of new drugs in clinical trials, thus plays an important role in the research and development of AD therapeutic drugs.
Pulling back the time to 2014, which was the first year of Sinotau's entry into the field of radiopharmaceuticals. Subsequently, Sinotau established Cerveau, a joint venture in the United States. Through the integration of international resources, Sinotau hoped to shorten the development gap of radiopharmaceuticals with developed countries in Europe and the U.S.
In December 2016, after a rigorous technical evaluation of the project by Sinotau and Cerveau, Cerveau licensed in Merck's original MK-6240 to expand its AD diagnostic drug product pipeline. Cerveau holds the global rights of MK-6240 and Sinotau acquires the Chinese rights of the product.
Important developments of MK-6240 have been performed, with contributions of Sinotau. MK-6240 is currently being used in more than 60 academic and industry clinical trials around the world for several late-stage AD therapeutic candidates being developed by more than 16 pharmaceutical companies.
In China, Sinotau has carried out the development of the project in parallel and successfully optimized the manufacturing process, improved the synthesis efficiency and completed a large number of non-clinical studies. At present, the project has obtained clinical approval and is expected to officially start Phase I clinical trials in the first half of this year.
The CEO of Sinotau, Tang Yanmin, said: "This transaction indicates that the field of radiopharmaceuticals is more and more recognized by the mainstream, and we will be more confident to carry out relevant layout. We hope that there will be more mergers and acquisitions in the field of radiopharmaceuticals, with a growing attention drawn to bring more resources and for it to become more prosperous."