BioLineRx Schizophrenia Pill Draws Approaches, CFO Says

BioLineRx Ltd. (BLRX), an Israeli drug development company partly held by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA), said it’s been approached by larger drugmakers interested in developing its experimental schizophrenia pill.

The medicine improved patients’ cognitive function in a mid-stage trial in 2010 and the company expects results from a more advanced study next year, Chief Financial Officer Philip Serlin said. Partnership talks will probably “heat up” then, according to Serlin. The stock rose 5.2 percent.

BioLine, based in Jerusalem, says its BL-1020 drug may turn out to help patients function better in daily life while anti-psychotic medicines such as AstraZeneca Plc (AZN)’s Seroquel and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)’s Risperdal help quell schizophrenia symptoms such as hearing voices or violent outbursts.

“The idea is that they can begin functioning as normal human beings,” Serlin said yesterday in an interview at the ILSI-Biomed Conference in Tel Aviv. “They can go to the store and to the post office, keep some kind of job. Ours is the only product that’s shown a cognitive improvement.”

BioLine rose to 1.01 shekel in Tel Aviv. Before today’s surge, the stock had dropped 22 percent since the start of the year as the company raised about $15 million in shares and warrants in February to fund the development of its drugs. The Tel Aviv Biomed index gained 3.7 percent in the same period.

Struggles With Logic

The antipsychotic therapeutic market has annual sales of about $13 billion in the U.S., according to BioLine.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder affecting about 1 in 100 people that makes it hard to distinguish reality, think logically and behave normally in social settings, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. In addition, many schizophrenia patients suffer from cognitive impairment, which affects their ability to lead normal lives.

BioLine is conducting a clinical test combining Phase II, or mid-stage trials, and Phase III, the most advanced level, to examine the drug’s safety as well as cognitive efficacy, according to Serlin. The next step would be a broader advanced test funded by a partner.

The company is also in advanced stages of development for an injectable treatment that creates a protective shield around the heart while it recovers after an attack. It has partnered with closely held Ikaria Inc. of Hampton, New Jersey, and may get as much as $285 million if the medicine clears all regulatory hurdles, Serlin said. So far, BioLine has received $17 million, he said.

BioLine aims to find promising early-stage drugs in Israel and partner with larger drugmakers to complete their development. Teva, the world’s biggest maker of generic drugs, is the third-largest shareholder with a 6.75 percent stake, according to Bloomberg data.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Wainer in Tel Aviv at dwainer3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kristen Hallam in London at khallam@bloomberg.net

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