Cerecor acquires Merck experimental drugs

NEW YORK (AP) -- Cerecor, a development-stage biotechnology company, said Wednesday it agreed to acquire potential treatments for Parkinson's disease and other central nervous system disorders from Merck & Co.

Cerecor Inc. of Baltimore said it is gaining the worldwide rights to develop and market drugs called COMT inhibitors. COMT is an enzyme that breaks down dopamine, and drugs that block COMT have been used to treat Parkinson's disease. Cerecor said it's possible that COMT inhibitors could also be used to treat schizophrenia and addiction.

Cerecor said it will review more than 2,000 potential drugs and select some for clinical development. Merck can get milestone payments and royalties from sales of any drugs that are approved. The companies did not disclose specific terms of the deal.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., is one of the world's biggest drug companies. Shares of the company rose 45 cents to $44.15 in morning trading.