(25th July 2002). Newly Privatised Drug Discovery Company, MerLion Pharmaceuticals Pte. Ltd., Builds on Singapore's Leadership in Biomedical Sciences.

Newly Privatized Drug Discovery Company, MerLion Pharmaceuticals, Builds on Singapore's Leadership in Biomedical Sciences.

Singapore, July 25, 2002. MerLion Pharmaceuticals Pte. Ltd. (MerLion Pharma) today announced its founding as one of Singapore's first drug discovery and development companies. This also marks the beginning of the company's formal collaborations in drug discovery and development with Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., Johns Hopkins Singapore Pte. Ltd. and the National Cancer Centre (Singapore) respectively.

Dr Tony Buss, Chief Executive Officer of MerLion Pharma, announced at a press conference today, "MerLion Pharma's founding represents not only the successful privatization of a leading Singapore research facility, but the creation of a key element in Singapore's efforts to develop its own pharmaceutical industry in the future. MerLion Pharma has world class assets, good science and an excellent team to become a world class company for drug discovery." Dr. Buss also announced that MerLion Pharma has finalized important drug discovery partnerships with Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, Johns Hopkins Singapore Pte. Ltd., and the National Cancer Centre, Singapore. MerLion Pharma would screen for drug candidates using targets from different therapeutic areas supplied by its partners, including those involved in cancer prevalent in South East Asia. Besides receiving milestone payments and upfront fees from some of its partners, MerLion Pharma would also share in the development and commercialization of the discoveries.

MerLion Pharmaceuticals Pte. Ltd. was formed through the privatization of the former Centre for Natural Product Research (CNPR), a unit of Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB). Funded in part by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), CNPR was established in 1993 to screen natural product samples for new pharmaceutical leads. From 1993 to 2002, CNPR established first class drug discovery capabilities, and undertook high throughput screening of natural product samples to discover an array of new bioactive compounds.

The privatization will now allow the company to work with a wider range of partners and engage in independent programmes of drug discovery and development in different therapeutic areas. There will be significant benefits for Singapore as the new company will provide employment opportunities for local scientists, generate intellectual property and contribute to Singapore's drive to establish itself as a regional hub for the biomedical sciences.

MerLion Pharma's business focus will be the discovery and development of new drug candidates from natural sources. The company has acquired all the assets of CNPR, including an impressive collection of natural product samples and a portfolio of promising lead compounds. Through its acquisition of GSK's natural product libraries, MerLion Pharma will possess one of the world's largest and most diverse natural product sample collections. The collections, together with MerLion Pharma's advanced high throughput screening technology, assay development, natural product chemistry and an experienced medicinal chemistry team, place the company in a unique position to offer pharmaceutical companies and research institutions the opportunity to partner in the discovery and development of new pharmaceuticals in areas of unmet medical need. The company will also be developing and commercializing lead compounds emerging from its own discovery programmes in several key therapeutic areas.

Current shareholders of the Company are GlaxoSmithKline Research and Development Limited, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and the Biomedical Sciences Investment Fund Pte Ltd. MerLion Pharma is in the process of securing additional funding to be used, in part, for developing its own promising lead compounds. MerLion Pharma is staffed by 60 employees and occupies 20,000 square feet of labs and offices in the Singapore Science Park.

Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.
Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. (Fujisawa) is a leading Japanese pharmaceutical company and is active in the world's major pharmaceutical markets - Japan, North America, Europe and Asia. Fujisawa was founded in 1894, and now has about 7,700 employees worldwide. The Company is firmly committed to innovative research to satisfy unmet medical needs and contribute to the progress of medical care. Fujisawa has excellent records in microbial product research based on its renowned fermentation technology.

Johns Hopkins Singapore Pte. Ltd.
Johns Hopkins Singapore Pte. Ltd. (JHS) was established by The Johns Hopkins University in 1998 as its base of medical operations in South East Asia. JHS has a tripartite mission of research, education and patient care which integrates basic translational and clinical research components. JHS conducts biomedical research in various diseases endemic to Asia, and collaborates with other research institutes in Singapore with the aim of developing new therapies and diagnoses. JHS also works in close partnership with the National University Hospital in operating a cancer treatment facility. JHS is staffed by 85 employees and presently occupies 45,000 square feet in three locations.

National Cancer Centre, Singapore (NCC) was established in 1996 as a centre of excellence for the development and delivery or first class cancer treatments to patients in the Singapore area and beyond. Together with its associated hospitals, NCC captures 55% of all cancer cases in Singapore. This provides a valuable resource for research and clinical studies. NCC recognizes the importance of research to advance patient care and devotes considerable effort to basic, translational and clinical research within the Divisions of Cellular Molecular Research, Medical Sciences, Clinical Trials and Epidemiology Studies.