(9th Apr 2003) Athelas and MerLion Pharmaceuticals Establish Drug Discovery Collaboration for the Discovery and Development of a New Class of Anti-Infectives

-- Research to focus on utilising Athelas' proprietary anti-virulence screens with MerLion Pharma's natural product libraries --

Geneva, Switzerland and Singapore, April 9, 2003. Athelas and MerLion Pharmaceuticals (MerLion Pharma), announced today that they have entered into a two year drug discovery and pre-clinical research collaboration to identify drug candidates in the area of anti-virulence anti-infectives, as a new class of drugs.

The collaboration will bring together MerLion Pharma's outstanding collection of natural product samples, high throughput screening capabilities, natural product and medicinal chemistry expertise together with Athelas' proprietary platform DiVi technology. MerLion will undertake the identification and characterization of lead candidates from their sample library using Athelas' proprietary assays and Athelas will then progress these compounds through initial pre-clinical development. Following selection of lead compounds, both companies will share in the rights and development costs for lead optimisation, clinical development and commercialisation. The two companies will manage the collaboration through a joint research committee. Commercial terms of the collaboration were not released.

"The collaboration with MerLion Pharma, a leader in natural product chemistry, high-throughput screening and assay development, is a strategic fit for Athelas' proprietary DiVi technology for the identification of both bacterial virulence targets as well as drugs inhibiting bacterial pathogenicity," said Dr. Jean-Pierre Paccaud, Athelas' Chief Executive Officer. "In the search for what will be an important new class of anti-infectives, we are delighted to have access to the extensive chemical diversity of MerLion's natural product libraries and to their outstanding scientific team."

Athelas's DiVi technology enables the identification of novel target genes responsible for the expression of virulence factors in a broad range of disease-causing bacteria. It also leads to the development of assays suitable for high throughput screening to identify drugs interfering with bacterial virulence mechanisms. This approach, when coupled with the chemical diversity contained in MerLion Pharma's natural product collection, can provide effective treatments where conventional anti-biotics are failing.

"We are pleased to be collaborating with Athelas in this promising new area of drug discovery," said Dr. Tony Buss, CEO of MerLion Pharma. "The uniqueness of Athelas's scientific and technological approach powered by a highly qualified R&D team constitutes a significant opportunity for the discovery and development of new classes of anti-infectives which address the critical problems related to drug resistance."

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, Genome Therapeutics, Johns Hopkins (Singapore), KuDOS Pharmaceuticals, Merck and Co, the National Cancer Centre (Singapore) and NovImmmune SA. MerLion Pharma is also developing and commercialising 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 Athelas (www.athelas.com)
Athelas is a privately held Geneva-based biopharmaceutical company pioneering an industrialized approach to cell-based anti-virulence drug discovery. Athelas was formed in May 2002 to identify and develop novel anti-bacterial drugs and related products based on a proprietary technology platform. By using advanced animal cell screens to first evaluate drug candidates in an animal cellular model, and then to optimise the safety and efficacy of the candidates, Athelas is able to develop a novel class of drugs to treat infections caused by several major human bacterial pathogens such as Legionella, Salmonella, Staphylococcus or Pseudomonas. Athelas SA was the 2002 biotech winner of the Wall Street Journal Europe Innovation Award.