(1st Jul 2005) Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and MerLion Pharmaceuticals collaborate on drug discovery and development.

Singapore research institute’s partnership with local pharmaceutical company kicks off with project to identify anti-cancer drug candidates

  1. MerLion Pharmaceuticals Pte Ltd (MerLion) and the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) today announced a three-year drug discovery and development collaboration.

  2. Under the collaboration, IMCB will provide MerLion with a series of selected drug targets and projects. MerLion will provide access to its extensive natural products sample collection and apply its screening and natural products chemistry skills to the isolation of new chemical leads and drug candidates. It will also supply its medicinal chemistry expertise in the optimisation and pre-clinical development of active chemical templates. MerLion and IMCB will work in partnership throughout the lead discovery and optimisation stages of the collaboration and share ownership of the output.

  3. “This public-private partnership offers both IMCB and MerLion unique opportunities to discover novel medicines from our diverse natural products chemistry and across a wide range of therapeutic areas.” said Dr Tony Buss, CEO of MerLion. “The quality of targets generated by IMCB and the science behind them is world-class. This agreement demonstrates the increasing maturity of biotechnology in Singapore and offers MerLion a steady stream of validated and tractable targets with which to build long term growth.”

  4. Prof Sir David Lane, Executive Director of IMCB said, “We are very excited about the collaboration because it will allow us to take our science a step further. IMCB has a solid foundation in basic science and MerLion has an excellent natural sample collection. There is tremendous potential in combining our expertise, and we are confident that this is the direction to take in order to speed the process of drug discovery and development.”

  5. One of the first projects under this umbrella agreement will be the identification of potential anti-cancer drug candidates based around the Bcl-2 family of proteins. Dr Victor Yu, Principal Investigator in IMCB has been studying the effect of these proteins on cancer cell survival for a decade and has been among the first to develop a specific biochemical assay suitable to be used for high throughput screening.? Protein-protein interactions, such as these, are particularly sensitive to compounds derived from natural products and this collaboration offers the promise of identifying novel inhibitors of this target and also to the many others on which IMCB and MerLion will collaborate.

  6. The IMCB-MerLion collaboration was facilitated by Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL). The commercialisation arm of IMCB’s parent agency, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), ETPL acts to identify, protect and exploit promising intellectual property created by research institutes under the Agency.


For more information, please contact:


Business Development Manager
MerLion Pharmaceuticals Pte Ltd
Tel: (65) 6829 5606
Email: chris@merlionpharma.com

Joshua WOO
Admin Officer
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB)
Tel: (65) 6586 9771
Email: woohk@imcb.a-star.edu.sg

JAM Chee Chong
Manager, Corporate Communications
Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd
Tel: (65) 64788454
Email: cheechong@exploit-tech.com


Notes to the Editor

About Bcl-2

It is increasingly evident that what makes cancer cells resilient to drug treatments is their unique ability in realigning its molecular networks to strongly favour survival over death. Intense study over the past decade in laboratories around the world including those at the IMCB in Singapore, has led to the current understanding that a group of proteins, collectively known as the “Bcl-2 family of proteins” are the major proteins constituting the molecular switches that are responsible for setting the “death potential” in human cells. Unprecedented opportunities are now available to correct the imbalance in cancer cells by identifying drugs that would directly target (inhibit) the pro-survival proteins among the Bcl-2 family of proteins.? There is high hope that this class of novel compounds, will revolutionise drug treatment paradigms of human cancers in the near future.


About MerLion Pharmaceuticals Pte Ltd


MerLion Pharmaceuticals Pte Ltd is a privately-held Singapore based pharmaceutical company, focusing on the discovery and development of new drug candidates from natural sources. MerLion Pharma collaborates with leading pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies and research institutes to identify and develop new drug candidates for a wide range of molecular targets. The company's other current collaboration partners include Abbott Laboratories, Arpida SA, Astellas Pharma Inc., Athelas SA, Dow AgroSciences, Johns-Hopkins (USA), KuDOS Pharmaceuticals, Merck and Co, NovImmmune SA, Nura Inc, Sankyo Co Ltd and Schering-Plough Inc.

MerLion Pharma has a strong pipeline of pre-clinical candidates displaying novel chemistry and modes of action. It plans to accelerate development of these compounds towards the clinic whilst maintaining a productive discovery engine, supplying new leads and candidates via collaboration and independently. MerLion Pharma is staffed by over 65 employees and occupies 28,000 square feet of laboratory and office space in the Singapore Science Park.


About the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB)


The Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) is a member of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and is funded through A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council (BMRC). It is a world-class research institute in biomedical sciences with core strengths in cell cycle, cell signalling, cell death, cell motility, developmental biology, genomics and protein trafficking. Its recent achievements include leading an international consortium that successfully sequenced the entire pufferfish (Fugu) genome. The IMCB was awarded the Nikkei Prize 2000 for Technological Innovation in recognition of its growth into a leading international research centre and its collaboration with industry and research institutes worldwide. Established in 1987, the Institute currently has 38 independent research groups with more than 400 staff members.


About Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd


Exploit Technologies is the commercialisation arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).? Its charter is to identify, protect and exploit promising intellectual property (IP) created by A*STAR’s research institutes.? This includes facilitating the IP management process (ie the protection of inventions through patents and copyrights, etc), analysing the strength of our IP and the market that they could serve, and working with companies to commercialise the technologies.