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Acadia Seeking Big-Pharma Partner for Promising Drug

Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. is hoping to keep the momentum going after better-than-expected results from a clinical trial for its schizophrenia drug made its stock price double.

The firm is seeking a large pharmaceutical partner to help it garner a chunk of the $15 billion schizophrenia drug market.

Chief Executive Officer Uli Hacksell said a big-pharma partner would help boost Acadia’s drug, known as ACP-103, as it moves into third stage human clinical trials , the last required tests before consideration from the Food and Drug Administration.

Success comes two ways in the biotech world , sporadically, as in the case of positive clinical trial news, and finally, with federal approval, said Steve Brozak, a New York-based analyst with San Diego-based WBB Securities.

Acadia stock, which trades as ACAD on Nasdaq, more than doubled to $14.55 from $6.69 in the two days following the March 19 phase two clinical results announcement, with a high of $15.84 on March 20.

The trial showed that ACP-103 works faster and has fewer side effects, such as weight gain, than currently approved drugs for schizophrenia.

Since the 1990s, the FDA has approved at least five drugs that treat schizophrenia, which affects 1 percent of the world’s population, including 2 million Americans.

“Large pharma needs small pharma because there ain’t nothin’ in the pipeline,” Brozak said, referring to drug development pipelines of large pharmaceutical companies. “This professes to the fact that people are putting two and two together.”

He said development stage companies such as Acadia need partners for validation and money.

A New Story

But Acadia has a story to tell that’s all its own, says Eun Yang, a New York-based biotech analyst with Jeffries & Co.

Yang has been highly accurate in predicting Acadia’s stock performance, according to Yahoo Finance. Still, she says, aside of a couple of jumps, “Their stock price is still where it was a year ago.”

To Acadia’s credit, it has multiple compounds in its pipeline, whereas many biotechs today have just one good drug candidate.

The company’s compound for schizophrenia is also in phase two trials for Parkinson’s disease psychosis and in a proof of concept study for insomnia.

The multiple potential uses for ACP-103 increases its odds of getting approved for something, analysts agreed.

Multiple Eggs In Multiple Baskets

Acadia plans to begin phase two trials for a separate treatment for schizophrenia, ACP-104, this year. That one targets the cognitive problems associated with the disease.

The business partners with Irvine-based Allergan Inc., the maker of Botox, on two pain drugs, and an additional one for glaucoma.

Acadia has 100 employees in San Diego and 40 in Sweden.

CEO Hacksell, who was born in Sweden, came to Acadia in 1999 as executive vice president of drug discovery and was in charge of the Swedish unit, though he was based in San Diego. He formerly held similar positions with Astra, which merged in the late 1990s with Zeneca to form AstraZeneca, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

When asked which of Acadia’s many drugs he thinks will succeed first, Hacksell is noncommittal.

“When it comes to my children, I never want to choose between them,” Hacksell said.

Acadia develops all of its drugs internally , unusual in an age where an increasing number of biotechs are actually “specialty pharmaceutical” companies, which means they license drugs from other companies.

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