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Newron Said to Be in Talks for Sale to Santhera

Newron Pharmaceuticals SpA, the Italian company developing a drug for Parkinson’s disease with Merck KGaA, is in talks to be bought by Santhera Pharmaceuticals Holding AG, a person familiar with the situation said.

A deal to buy Bresso, Italy-based Newron may be reached within weeks, said the person, who declined to be identified because the discussions aren’t public. Stefan Weber, Newron’s chief financial officer, and Thomas Staffelbach, a spokesman for Santhera in Liestal, Switzerland, declined to comment. Newron has a market value of 55.2 million Swiss francs ($58.2 million).

A combination would bring together two companies that had lost two thirds of their market value in the past year. Newron, which is listed on the Swiss stock exchange, plunged in May after saying the experimental painkiller ralfinamide was no better than a placebo in helping patients with back pain. The same month, Santhera sank after its Catena drug failed a study against Friedreich’s ataxia, a rare inherited disease that damages the nervous system.

Newron rose 1.20 Swiss francs, or 19 percent, to 7.60 francs at the 5:30 p.m. close of trading in Zurich, the biggest advance in almost three years. Santhera rose 25 centimes, or 2.9 percent, to 8.93 francs.

Santhera, based in Liestal, Switzerland, plans to ask regulators to approve Catena as a treatment for Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, a rare genetic disease that leads to blindness.

Share Sale

Newron last month raised 3.5 million Swiss francs by selling shares at 5.25 francs each in a private placement to Great Point Partners LLC. Newron had 13.1 million euros ($17.8 million) in cash at the end of the first half of 2010, and has an option to sell 27.5 million euros of stock to YA Global Investments LP.

Newron sold rights to the Parkinson’s drug, safinamide, in 2006 to Serono SA, now owned by Darmstadt, Germany-based Merck, for as much as $200 million. The medicine also is being tested for use against Alzheimer’s disease.

Santhera said in October it would take back North American rights to the Fipamezole investigational drug candidate for a Parkinson’s-related condition from Biovail Corp., which now belongs to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. Santhera, which had 39.5 million francs in cash at the end of June, reached a licensing agreement in September with Ipsen SA to develop and sell the medicine outside North America and Japan.

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