Teijin Pharma Limited, the core company of the Teijin Group’s healthcare business, announced that it has entered into a license agreement with Merck & Co., Inc., a leading global biopharmaceutical company known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, for the development, manufacture and commercialisation of an investigational preclinical antibody candidate targeting tau protein.

Changes in tau are associated with a number of diseases of the nervous system, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Under the terms of this agreement, Merck will have exclusive worldwide rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise the anti-tau antibody.

In exchange, Merck will make an upfront payment to Teijin Pharma, who is also eligible to receive development, regulatory and sales milestone payments. In addition, Teijin Pharma will receive royalties on product sales and retains an option to copromote an approved product in Japan.

“Teijin Pharma scientists have made important progress to advance this investigational anti-tau antibody to this stage of development,” said Darryle Schoepp, Vice President, Neuroscience Discovery, Merck Research Laboratories. “Merck remains committed to developing meaningful therapeutic options for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.”

“Securing alliances with leading industry partners is a key part of the Teijin Group strategy,” said Akihisa Nabeshima, President of Teijin Pharma. “We believe that Merck’s strong neuroscience expertise makes it well suited to maximise the potential of this candidate.”

Two pathological changes in the brain are considered the cause of Alzheimer’s disease: senile plaques derived from the extracellular deposition of amyloid β peptide and neurofibrillary tangles resulting from intracellular accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau proteins.

The novel antibody generated by Teijin Pharma is designed to bind to hyperphosphorylated tau proteins and will be investigated for its ability to inhibit the progression of symptoms of dementia. The development of antibodies targeting tau proteins is attracting a great deal of attention.

The Teijin Group aims to promote alliances for products developed in-house in its medium-term management plan for 2017-2019 as well as to promote its pipeline strategy to expand its drug discovery.

As the population ages, demand for new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease is growing. The number of dementia patients is predicted to reach nearly 75 million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050 worldwide.

The collaboration between Teijin Pharma and Merck is expected to bring an innovative treatment and improved quality of life to patients.