(29th Jan 2003) Genome Therapeutics and MerLion Pharmaceuticals Establish Drug Discovery Collaboration for the Development of Broad Spectrum Anti-Infectives
-- Research to focus on screening Genome Therapeutics' bacterial targets against MerLion Pharma's natural product libraries --
Waltham, Mass. and Singapore, January 28, 2003 -Genome Therapeutics (Nasdaq: GENE) and MerLion Pharmaceuticals have launched a drug discovery program aimed at identifying natural products with potential utility as anti-infective drugs. The collaboration will focus on leveraging Genome Therapeutics' validated antibacterial drug targets against MerLion Pharma's extensive natural product libraries to select compounds for future clinical development, including those appropriate for Investigational New Drug (IND) status.
"The collaboration with MerLion Pharma, a leader in natural product chemistry and screening is a strategic fit for Genome Therapeutics' capabilities in discovering and profiling broad-spectrum antibacterial drug candidates from validated genomic targets," stated Richard Labaudinière, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Research and Development at Genome Therapeutics. "Having access to MerLion Pharma's natural product libraries is a critical asset for expanding our broad-spectrum anti-infective drug development program, as we seek to increase the number of IND candidates in our pipeline."
MerLion Pharma, established through the privatization of the former Centre for Natural Product Research (a unique unit of Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology), possesses one of the world's largest and most diverse natural product libraries available for screening. These libraries contain naturally occurring compounds that have the ability to inhibit the growth of many disease-causing microbes. Genome Therapeutics has built an extensive target protein portfolio by leveraging its genomics expertise to identify genes essential for the growth of bacteria, fungi and other medically important pathogens.
"We expect that the pairing of our internal expertise and Genome Therapeutics' antibacterial drug discovery capabilities will lead to promising discoveries in the search for new medicines used to combat infectious diseases," said Dr. Tony Buss, CEO of MerLion Pharma. "The collaboration, in addition to our existing partnerships with large pharmaceutical companies, biotechs and research institutes, further validates our drug discovery capabilities and business strategy."
MerLion Pharma and Genome Therapeutics will share all costs and expenses of the early-stage drug discovery research. Genome Therapeutics will provide MerLion Pharma with screening assays on target proteins essential for the survival of many common pathogens. MerLion Pharma will screen the targets against its vast natural product libraries to isolate and identify novel chemical entities with an inhibitory effect on the target proteins. Genome Therapeutics will profile active compounds for their in vitro and in vivo antibacterial properties to identify novel antibacterial lead series. A joint research committee, comprised of members from both companies, will monitor and direct the course of the research. Both companies retain rights for lead optimization, clinical development and commercialization of lead candidates identified during the collaboration.
About MerLion Pharma (www.merlionpharma.com)
MerLion Pharmaceuticals Pte. Ltd. is a privately held Singapore-based company, focusing on the discovery and development of new drug candidates from natural sources. The company's assets and capabilities include an outstanding natural product sample collection, advanced high throughput screening technology, assay development and medicinal chemistry capabilities.
MerLion Pharma collaborates with leading pharmaceutical companies, biotechs and research institutes to identify and develop drug leads in a wide range of therapeutic areas. The company's other current collaboration partners include Abbott Laboratories, Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., Johns Hopkins (Singapore) Pte. Ltd., and the National Cancer Centre (Singapore). MerLion Pharma is also developing and commercializing lead compounds emerging from its own discovery programs. MerLion Pharma is staffed by over 60 employees and occupies 20,000 square feet of labs and offices in the Singapore Science Park.
About Genome Therapeutics (www.genomecorp.com)
Genome Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of pharmaceutical and diagnostics products. The Company's first product candidate, Ramoplanin, is in a Phase III clinical trial for the prevention of bloodstream infections caused by vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE). Genome Therapeutics' biopharmaceutical business includes seven major product discovery alliances with several pharmaceutical companies including Schering-Plough, AstraZeneca, Wyeth, Amgen and bioMérieux. The Company's genomics services business, GenomeVision™ Services, provides pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and government and academic institutions with custom high-throughput sequencing, library construction, integrated SNP services and the PathoGenome™ Database.