Under the first contract, Evotec will use its proprietary fragment-based screening platform and fragment library to identify fragment hits against one of Solvay's high priority targets, which remains undisclosed, as do the terms of the deal.
Evotec said it will produce three-dimensional co-crystals of the fragment hits bound to the protein and then will use their fragment-to-lead capabilities to further optimise the fragments.
The optimisation of resulting fragment hits can be achieved up to 25 per cent faster than small molecule hits from high throughput methods because fragments are simpler to work with and require fewer process cycles, Evotec spokesperson Mark Ashton told Outsourcing-Pharma.com.
According to Ashton, fragment-based screening has been gaining in popularity over the past twelve months.
"Because it can detect weak binders, it is becoming a complimentary approach to screen for targets where high throughput methods are not successful," he said.
"For example, in the past we have screened small molecule libraries using high throughput methods and got no hits and then tried again using fragment-based screening and found several hits."
Less than ten companies in the world currently have fragment-based screening capabilities and although some pharmaceutical companies are developing their own in-house capabilities in this area, Ashton believes that the number of services firms who are able to provide these capabilities will remain limited because of the specific technology and expertise required.
For the few who are in the business, this could mean a growing number of customers with limited competition.
To meet expected market growth, Ashton said Evotec is planning to increase the size of its library in the next couple of weeks from 5,000 to 20,000 fragments.
The second contract Evotec signed with Solvay is a one year extension of an existing contract, first signed in 2001, for the synthesis and supply of chemical libraries for screening against targets in Solvay's drug discovery programmes.
While Solvay undertakes some of these activities in-house, it also uses Evotec to help it supplement these internal capabilities, which are limited.
This is the third time the original contract has been extended. The terms remain undisclosed.