The deal between CoCensys and Ciba has three main elements: the co-development of Acea 1021; the building of a COCN sales force to co-promote four Ciba drugs; and the exercise by COCN of its option to acquire Acea Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Acea 1021 is a glycine antagonist. Blocking glycine in turn blocks the release of glutamate, which opens calcium channels and ultimately causes the death of neurons in stroke and head trauma. Other methods of blocking calcium channels, such as direct channel blockers at the NMDA receptor and glutamate blockers, both cause PCP-like side effects. Glycine works at a different site, which doesn't seem to cause those side effects, according to Daniel Korpolinski, president and CEO of the Irvine, Calif., company.