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8-million compound library
PRINCETON, N.J.—In the latest of an impressive list of collaborative agreements, Pharmacopeia Drug Discovery recently inked a deal with Wyeth Pharmaceutical to jointly develop and commercialize Pharmacopeia's JAK3 inhibitors for the treatment of immunological and inflammatory diseases.
"We are very focused on small molecule therapeutic development," notes Simon Tomlinson, Pharmacopeia's senior vice president of business development. "With 8 million compounds in our library, which we believe is four times the size of any other company in the industry, initial screening provides a rich set of information. In turn, this allows us to pick and choose among leads—we don't have to follow one or two well past the point of diminishing returns. Consequently, we think that we are able to make progress more quickly."
Based on their mechanism of action, the market for JAK3 inhibitor-based therapeutics should be very attractive, Pharmacopeia's Tomlinson explains. JAK3 is a protein target that is activated in response to a transplanted organ or autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, asthma, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. JAK3 inhibitors downregulate the JAK3 response, and since the mechanism of action is predominantly expressed in T cells, Tomlinson says very few side effects should result.
Drugs for these indications currently on the market do have significant side effects, must be injected, and can cost up to $20 thousand per year, Pharmacopeia claims.
Though apparently not locked-in, under the terms of the agreement with Wyeth, Pharmacopeia may also receive up to $9 million in research funding over the next three years and up to $175 million when Wyeth achieves various developmental milestones, as well as double-digit royalties on the net sales of any products commercialized by Wyeth as a result of the collaboration
Wyeth, which currently markets the anti-inflammatory injectable Enbrel, will have the rights to systemic uses where its experience with immunologic diseases and therapies provides significant advantages. A company spokesman cites rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis as areas of "keen" interest. Wyeth declined to speculate on the length of the collaboration for competitive reasons.
Pharmacopeia will focus on skin and ocular diseases via topical administration and retain certain rights that allow the company to build its own clinical portfolio and salesforce. Pharmacopeia operates on the classic biotech model. Founded in 1993 as a technology platform and service company with its core strength in combinatorial chemistry, it was acquired and then spun off in 2004 by Accelrys Inc.—whose focus is computational software. It was this earlier history that facilitated the compilation of its extensive library of chemical compounds. The company points to 40 collaborations in its short history, with nine active today, and three drugs in active Phase 1 clinical trials with partners Shering-Plough (2) and Bristol Myers-Squibb.