Preclinical services news in brief
services arena, news has emerged involving Exelgen, Epistem, Sareum
Holdings and WuXi PharmaTech.
Chemistry services firm Exelgen, a subsidiary of Commonwealth Biotechnologies (CBI), has entered into two new drug discovery collaborations, one with a "leading" US pharma company, and the other with a "major" European pharma company, both of which declined to be named. Mark Warne, managing director at Exelgen said that with its new European partner, the firm is now involved in a broad-based collaboration to discover and develop novel small-molecule therapeutics for use in the fields of central nervous system (CNS) disorders, Alzheimer's disease, neuro-inflammation and Type II diabetes. Under the terms of the agreement, based on compounds discovered by Exelgen, the partner will receive an option to license the compounds and collaborate in specific programs. The European pharma firm will make an initial up-front cash payment to Exelgen for exclusivity on certain program assets and have the option to continue development of the assets in collaboration with Exelgen, said Warne, who added that if the collaboration is successful and a drug candidate is identified, Exelgen would receive ongoing support through additional research funding and will be eligible to receive milestones of up to $25m and additional royalties on any product sales. Meanwhile, in regard to the arrangement with the US pharma firm, Mark Hober, vice president of business development and marketing for CBI, said that Exelgen has been recruited to use its skills in computational design and library synthesis. The deal is expected to generate revenues of up to $900,000 over the coming months and "follows on the heels of several other successful projects with this client", said Hober. Recently, Exponential Biotherapies (EBI) has contracted assay services firm Epistem to provide its specialist preclinical efficacy testing services for agents being developed that are likely to protect the gastrointestinal tract against radiation damage. The first compound that Epistem will assess is EBI's lead candidate drug, EA-230, which is a small peptide immunoregulator, that has shown the potential to treat (minimise) radiation insult and could therefore be administered following a terrorist nuclear attack to reduce the level of intestinal related radiation sickness. Dr Zsolt Harsanyi, chairman and CEO of EBI said: "Epistem's well established assays and unrivalled expertise in the field of gastrointestinal epithelial radiation toxicity are extremely valuable to us in confirming the potential of EA-230 as a therapeutic treatment for radionuclear attack". Dr Catherine Booth, head of Epistem's contract research division added: "If it (EA-230) is able to improve gastrointestinal wound healing following radiation exposure it may have widespread applications in biodefence, oncology supportive care (the area for which we first developed and validated these assays), and possibly in other related intestinal wound healing situations, such as inflammatory bowel disease." Meanwhile, structure-based drug discovery services firm Sareum Holdings has announced that Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development has chosen to extend its collaborative agreement with Sareum for another six months, with an option for further extension. Under the terms of the agreement, Sareum will continue to apply its skills in high throughput protein structure determination to assist J&J in the development of new drugs to treat CNS diseases. The firms have already been working together on this research programme for the past 12 months. Sareum will receive research fees and success-dependent milestone payments, although no specific financial terms of the agreement were disclosed. In other related news, China's WuXi PharmaTech has been awarded the 2007 Chemistry contract research organisation (CRO) of the Year Award by the Pfizer Chemistry Sourcing Center of Emphasis (CoE). WuXi PharmaTech, China's largest CRO, has worked with Pfizer for many years, with collaborations ranging from synthetic chemistry, parallel medicinal chemistry (PMC) and distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME), to bioanalytical services. Pfizer said the award recognises in particular the "outstanding collaboration" of the WuXi and Pfizer teams in an effort to shorten the cycle times between requests for and delivery of parallel medicinal chemistry. Dr Gonghua Pan of Pfizer said: "With WuXi's help, we reduced the average time from submitting the request to shipping of the finished product from 65 days in 2006 to 43 days in 2007, and at no increase in cost".