BioWorld International Correspondent

INovacia AB, a new drug discovery contract research organization established via a management buyout from Biovitrum AB, entered a strategic alliance with Asinex Ltd., which has gained a 20 percent stake in the venture.

Money did not change hands in the transaction, Thomas Olin, CEO of Stockholm, Sweden-based iNovacia, told BioWorld International, but the deal gives it access to Asinex's library of about 200,000 compounds and its resources in chemistry. The Moscow-based company has 300 employees, including 190 chemists, Olin said.

"It will be research collaborations that will generate cash for iNovacia," he said.

Biovitrum, also of Stockholm, recorded a one-time charge in the first quarter of SEK39 million (US$5.3 million) in connection with the formation of the new company.

"It's a combination of working capital and the valuation of the instruments that have been transferred to iNovacia," Olin said. "The value of that is significant."

Biovitrum retains a 10 percent stake in the new company and will employ its services as the need arises. INovacia's management and employees hold 70 percent of its stock.

The company should help to catalyze drug discovery in the Nordic region, Olin said, as it can offer small and medium-sized biotechnology companies access to facilities normally found only in medium and large pharma companies and in large biotechnology firms. It is "more or less unique," he said, in its ability to biophysically characterize interactions between targets and ligands and to filter out false positives from screening data.

Up to now, Scandinavian biotechnology companies have been hampered by their limited access to research facilities. Because of a stronger technology base, their counterparts in Switzerland, Olin said, are better positioned to "pressure test" ideas and development projects without having to build the necessary infrastructure themselves.

The 35-person company also is seeking opportunities in international markets. By combining with Asinex, the two firms will be able to present a broader front to prospective clients, Olin said, than either would be able to do on its own. Customers are, he said, increasingly looking for higher levels of integration in outsourced discovery work. INovacia and Asinex, which has previously provided services to Biovitrum, will be able to take projects from idea through to lead optimization.

Biovitrum decided last year to restructure its research organization, in order to shift more of its resources clinical stage projects. It still has more than 75 staff in early stage discovery work, in Cambridge, UK, and in Stockholm.

"We have lowered our fixed cost for R&D," Biovitrum's vice president of communications, Anna Karin K llén, told BioWorld International. (See BioWorld International, Oct. 12, 2005.)

Biovitrum reported first-quarter net income of SEK86.3 million on revenue of SEK403.3 million. More than half of its turnover came from the production of recombinant Factor VIII for Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth. The company does not anticipate many dramatic changes.

"We don't foresee any increase in our cost base, and the ReFacto sales are very stable," K llén said. It held more than SEK1.6 billion in cash and equivalents on March 31.