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Merck May Eventually Own Up to 20 Percent of Genaissance in Pharmacogenomics Agreement

This article has been updated from a previous version.

NEW YORK, Sept. 24 (GenomeWeb News) - Merck may eventually own up to 19.9 percent of Genaissance as a  result of a license agreement between the companies in which Genaissance will use its haplotyping technology to develop a Merck antidepressant, said Genaissance CEO Kevin Rakin yesterday in a conference call. 

Genaissance hopes to develop and commercialize the selective seratonin inhibitor, called vilazodone, and will provide an upfront payment of about $1.2 million and milestone stock payments that may total another $43 million, payable in Genaissance common stock, said Rakin. "The vast majority of milestones are due at the time of the NDA filing," said Rakin in a conference call.

The agreement stipulates that Merck cannot own more than a 19.9 percent share of Genaissance stock.

Merck will receive royalties from the drug and any accompanying diagnostic test, said Rakin during the conference call.

During the first half of 2005, Genaissance hopes to begin enrollment for a Phase II clinical trial that will include pharmacogenomic characterization of patients, said a Merck statement yesterday.  

Vilazodone is also a 5HT1A partial agonist, said Merck.  In Phase II clinical trials for depression, the compound has shown signals of efficacy and a favorable side effects profile in more than 1,000 patients, the company added.

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