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May 29,2002

Taisho and Merck Sign License Agreement for Taisho’s mGluR agonists

Tokyo, Japan, May 29, 2002 – Taisho Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd. announced today that it has signed a license agreement with Merck & Co., Inc. regarding licensing, development and marketing of its novel mGluR (metabotropic glutamate receptor) agonists. 

Taisho and Merck are developing the compounds for potential use in treating diseases of the central nervous system, including schizophrenia. The license agreement gives Merck exclusive worldwide rights (ex China) and co-exclusive rights in Japan. In Japan and China, Taisho retains certain development and marketing rights. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

mGluR is a metabotropic glutamate receptor of which eight subtypes are currently known. Although the mechanism of action is not completely understood, scientists believe mGluR receptors may play a variety of key roles in brain pathology. The subtypes known as mGluR2 and mGluR3, for example, are related to the neurotransmission of glutamate in the brain. Because abnormal neurotransmission of glutamate is believed to be a factor in the pathology of schizophrenia, mGluR agonists may be potential new treatments for this disease. Taisho has synthesized and characterized several compounds that show high affinity to mGluR.

Schizophrenia is a major public health problem throughout the world, and is estimated to affect about one percent of the global population. A significant medical need exists for better treatments for schizophrenia that are more efficacious and tolerable. Many of the currently used medications are associated with side effects, and the disease is often not controlled with currently available therapies.

Taisho is the leading non-prescription pharmaceutical company in Japan and the second ranking in the world. Taisho has also been strengthening its research and development efforts in the area of prescription drugs through steady internal growth. Taisho is collaborating with domestic and foreign pharmaceutical companies. The mGluR agonists and the collaboration with Merck are examples of these efforts.