BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Amura Ltd. is looking for new funding and its first licensing deals after completing a merger with its drug discovery counterpart, Proteom Ltd., earlier this year.

"We will be raising £2 million (US$3.8 million) this year, then more in 2007," Andrew Muncey, CEO of Amura, told BioWorld International. "Both companies have previously been funded in small tranches, and it is part of our mindset. We see some nice value milestones coming along and are reluctant to take the dilution of a large amount of money coming in before that."

The funding has been underwritten by Avlar BioVentures, the lead investor of both Amura and Proteom. "The aim is to get one more new investor in this next round," Muncey said.

The merger of the two Cambridge, UK-based companies brought together Amura's skills in chemical scaffolds with Proteom's screening and design platform ProtoDiscovery.

ProtoDiscovery can design, build and screen virtual compounds against targets in silico, selecting and ranking the best for subsequent in vitro testing. Meanwhile, Amura's scaffolds form the building blocks of novel drugs, providing molecules with functional pharmacokinetic properties including specificity, solubility and chiral stability.

The combined, early stage pipeline of the merged company features 10 preclinical compounds for treating diseases ranging from osteoporosis to obesity, but in the future, the intention is to focus on inflammation and autoimmune disorders.

Proteom provided a fee-for-service business (which is how it became acquainted with Amura), and Muncey said that will be maintained. "The revenue is helpful, and it keeps the platform up to date, but we won't be actively pursuing this aspect of the business," he said.

The companies shared the approach of using their technology platform to design small molecules that fit validated, but previously intractable, targets. For example, the osteoporosis product targets cathepsin K. "A number of products in development are looking at cathepsin K, but we've got some novel chemistry, which we think gives us some advantages," Muncey said.

The business model is to find partners when compounds are ready for Phase I. Muncey is looking to out-license the osteoporosis product, an antibacterial program based on beta-lactamase inhibitors and obesity products based on GPCR targets.

"There is more evidence of an appetite for licensing at preclinical and the overall risk is much lower. Otherwise, we only have the resources to take one or two compounds through to the clinic," Muncey said.

"There is also a good argument that we are very good at discovery, while other companies are very good at development," he added.

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