FBDD offers an alternative approach for identifying novel, small molecule hits for a number of biological targets including those that have proved problematic using traditional methods, the company said. This is based on the company's fragment screening platform, Evolution, which can identify low molecular weight fragments in a biologically relevant environment. The company claims that the technology can significantly reduce the timelines associated with preclinical research and can positively impact programme attrition, and is now looking at developing a more collaborative approach with its existing customers but also with potential partners. "We want to do broader collaborative deals, not just doing fragment screening for our customers," David Brister, Evotec's chief business officer, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com "We now have expertise to run drug discovery programmes from initial screening through to proof of concept and in vivo," said Brister. He added that only a handful of companies, including Astex, currently have fragment-based screening capabilities and even less can offer the whole programme. Evotec expects to generate more interest from biopharma companies by offering to deliver molecules and in vivo data to its potential partners rather than simple fragment screening. However, Brister couldn't comment on the amount of money invested in the new innovation centres project. Evotec said it has already validated the Evolution technology against a number of biologically relevant targets including kinases, proteases and protein-protein interactions for therapeutic applications in the Central Nervous System (CNS), oncology, inflammation, metabolic disease and cardiovascular diseases. To meet expected market growth, Evotec recently increased the size of its library from 5,000 to 20,000 fragments, and is currently in discussion with several potential partners. "For CNS, we will run our own programmes but for therapeutic areas outside of CNS, we will be looking at collaborating with partners," said Brister. The firm said that more than 10 programmes will be initiated in 2007 and it will seek to partner these programmes once they are in lead optimisation. Evotec is also collaborating with a number of partners using the Evolution technology to identify novel small molecule leads for their targets and plans to enter into additional such collaborations. Earlier this year, the firm inked two contract deals with Solvay to provide fragment-based and library synthesis drug discovery services. Under the first contract, Evotec uses 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. Finally, Evotec plans to create a number of innovation centres in key areas that will bring new solutions for the identification of therapeutic products in the next two years. The centres will combine existing capabilities and expertise within Evotec with external scientific and technical expertise and investment, the company said.