German pharmaceutical firm Boehringer Ingelheim has signed an exclusive agreement with US-based Arena Pharmaceuticals, to conduct joint research to discover new drug candidates for psychiatric diseases.

The new drugs will target an undisclosed G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), which belongs to the group of orphan CNS receptors.

The deal combines Arena’s expertise in GPCR focused drug discovery and development with Boehringer’s approach to CNS research and development, and its proven capabilities in bringing new medications of high therapeutic value to the market in areas of high unmet medical need.

Arena interim CEO Harry Hixson said: “This agreement reflects our new corporate focus to enter into collaboration opportunities at various stages of development.

“We believe that this alliance with Arena will … contribute to our vision of helping the millions of people with mental illness,”

“Collaborations are an essential part of our drug discovery and development efforts, so we are pleased to be part of this shared goal to identify novel drugs targeting an orphan CNS receptor with Boehringer Ingelheim, who possesses demonstrated capabilities in research, development, manufacturing, and marketing of pharmaceutical products.”

As part of the deal, Boehringer will secure exclusive rights from Arena to its internally discovered, new compounds and intellectual property for the orphan CNS receptor.

The companies will jointly conduct research to identify additional drug candidates suitable for continued research and development as therapeutic compounds for various disease indications.

The deal will see Boehringer retain exclusive worldwide rights to develop, manufacture, and commercialise products resulting from the alliance.

In return, Arena is eligible to receive payments up to $262m in success milestones in case of full commercial success of multiple drug products, including an upfront payment and research funding.

Additionally, the US firm is eligible to receive tiered royalties on future sales of products that arise from the collaboration.

Boehringer Discovery Research head and corporate senior vice-president Clive Wood said: “Together with our research partners in neuroscience, we are targeting brain circuits underlying major untreated symptom domains in our CNS focus areas of Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression.

“We are delighted to enter into this new collaboration with Arena, who have recognised expertise in orphan CNS GPCR drug discovery and development.

“We believe that this alliance with Arena will allow us to deliver innovative, new medicines for the treatment of patients with psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and contribute to our vision of helping the millions of people with mental illness, to live fuller, more independent lives, for longer.”