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Going commercial
January 2012
by David Hutton  |  Email the author
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TEL AVIV, Israel—Compugen Ltd. and DiscoveRx Corp. are taking the wraps off a collaborative partnership that will focus on the commercialization of novel Compugen-designed peptides to be matched with specific G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) targets utilizing DiscoveRx's GPCR-related technologies.
 
The new agreement follows a successful pilot program between the two companies. Financial terms of the agreement were not released.  
 
The pilot project between the companies resulted in promising initial results for a number of library peptides that were shown to modulate specific GPCR targets, thus demonstrating both the library's potential as a reservoir of therapeutically relevant peptides and the ability of DiscoveRx's functional GPCR assays to identify novel peptide/GPCR target interactions.  
 
Under the terms of the collaboration, DiscoveRx will utilize its PathHunter Platform as well as its suite of additional proprietary cell-based GPCR assays and related technologies to match individual peptides in the Compugen GPCR targeted peptide library with specific GPCR drug targets of interest to DiscoveRx's pharmaceutical company clients and others.  
 
Following these activities, peptides of interest will be available for licensing from Compugen under milestone and royalty-bearing agreements. The parties have agreed to a revenue-sharing financial model providing different pre-arranged sharing percentages for each category of revenue anticipated by the collaboration.  
 
According to Dr. Zurit Levine, vice president of research and discovery at Compugen, the company's peptide library is suitable for screening a wide range of GPCRs.
 
"DiscoveRx offers multiple GPCR screening assays and has a broad portfolio of GPCR cell lines and assays designed to detect GPCR signaling through different mechanisms," says Levine. "Therefore, DiscoveRx's comprehensive GPCR assay portfolio and screening capabilities makes them an attractive partner for discovery of novel GPCR ligands within Compugen's library."  
 
Levine also notes that Compugen's peptide library contains more than 900 peptides predicted to have a high likelihood of modulating GPCR targets.  
 
"It is known that newly discovered GPCR peptide ligands in the past have shown a high probability of being successfully developed into new drugs," says Levine. "Our unique and innovative approach to creating this peptide library was developed using Compugen's proprietary GPCR Peptide Ligand Discovery Platform, which is based on our capability of identifying novel peptide ligand agonists to GPCRs that could become drug candidates embedded within the human proteome."  
 
Levine further explains that the platform incorporates a proprietary model of the "peptidome," an in-silico prediction of putative human peptides, which includes thousands of novel predicted human peptide sequences, based on predicting cleavage sites in precursor proteins.  
 
"The discovery platform utilizes proprietary machine-learning algorithms to analyze this peptidome and to identify peptides likely to activate GPCRs. During the initial validation activities for this platform, three predicted peptides, CGEN-856, CGEN-855 and CGEN-25009, were subsequently shown to have therapeutic potential in disease animal models of cardiovascular, fibrotic and inflammatory conditions, which were published in leading scientific journals," says Levine. "In addition, Compugen has recently announced that the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation will fund further studies to evaluate the potential of CGEN-25009 for treating lung fibrosis. Based on our previous findings of our technology, we believe this peptide library consists of numerous potential new drugs targeting an important target class."  
 
Anat Cohen-Dayag, Compugen's president and CEO, says the company is "focusing its discovery and development efforts towards addressing unmet medical needs in our focus areas of oncology and immunology through the use of novel protein and antibody therapeutics."  
 
"However, as part of the development and validation activities associated with establishing our broadly applicable predictive discovery capabilities, a number of very promising discoveries were made that have significant potential in other areas," Cohen-Dayag says. "Therefore, in recent months, we have been in various discussions for arrangements with other organizations to advance certain of these earlier discoveries, including a number related to potential peptide therapeutics, largely without the need for further Compugen financial resources, such as this collaboration with DiscoveRx."
 
According to Dr. Pyare Khanna, CEO of DiscoveRx, the collaboration is "a unique opportunity to address a key drug target class through a combination of DiscoveRx's most comprehensive and market-leading GPCR cell-based assay platforms, and Compugen's leading predictive capability for peptide discovery."
 
Sailaja Kuchibhatla, senior vice president of business development at DiscoveRx, says Compugen proved to be an attractive partner for the collaboration because its in-silico predictive models that utilize proprietary predictive platforms, algorithms and other computational biology capabilities have led to a collection of proprietary molecules which can be taken through pre-IND programs.  
 
"DiscoveRx offers next-generation, functional, cell-based GPCR, kinase, NHR and pathway-signaling assay platforms that can, in an expedited manner, provide functional validation as well provide greater biological insights into Compugen's proprietary collection," Kuchibhatla says. "This joint collaborative model will allow third parties to engage in collaborations with both companies and thereby bring in functionally validated product candidates for further development and commercialization, as well as various 'discovery-on-demand' arrangements, in most cases providing Compugen and DiscoveRx with potential milestone payments and royalties on product sales or other forms of revenue-sharing."
 
Code: E011219

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