Company news: AstraZeneca, Targacept

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Ardelyx has licensed its line of NHE3 inhibitors to AstraZeneca for $35 million up front and an additional $237.5 million in milestone fees. The agreement includes the Phase II drug RDX5791, which Ardelyx has put through testing for irritable bowel syndrome. The company said in a statement that the drug is “believed to decrease the absorption of dietary sodium,” which puts less stress on the kidneys, an issue for chronic kidney disease. Ardelyx and AstraZeneca are looking to apply the drug to both indications, with AstraZeneca picking up subsequent development costs and Ardelyx conducting Phase II trials. The licensing agreement gives Ardelyx the option to co-promote the drug in the US.

Targacept announced Monday that the April layoff off 65 employees was not its last -- the company will slim its workforce by 38%, leaving it with a staff of 43 employees, and will shutter its lab operations by the end of this year. Targacept, which focuses on nervous system disorders, has had a number of changes this year, including the resignation of its president and CEO J. Donald deBethizy and the creation of an Office of the Chairman. The firm also had a pipeline setback when an antidepressant it was developing with AstraZeneca performed poorly in Phase III tests and was scrapped.
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