Washington Editor

A research and license agreement could be worth up to $54 million for TransTech Pharma Inc., which was expected to announce today it agreed to lend its TTP Translational Technology to a worldwide collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH.

"We like to have a select number of collaborative partnerships," said Stephen Ireland, TransTech's senior vice president of business development, explaining that the company shies away from fee-for-service arrangements and instead leans toward these kinds of concerted efforts. "We're much more involved with our partners."

The deal is the latest of several for TransTech, of High Point, N.C. Boehringer has delivered an undisclosed biological target against which it and TransTech will work to discover and develop small-molecule therapeutics.

"These are typically targets that the industry has tried," Ireland told BioWorld Today, "but for the most part, given up on."

Terms of the agreement give Boehringer, of Ingelheim, Germany, the exclusive right to develop and commercialize all compounds directed at that target, which was described as "of interest" to both companies.

"We choose interesting, challenging targets to work on," Ireland said, and in this case, something that will "deliver a clinical candidate." In return, TransTech would receive an up-front payment, research support and payments upon certain research, clinical and commercialization milestones, as well as royalties. It also will participate in clinical development committees.

Additional specifics were not disclosed, although Ireland said TransTech would look to complete its end of the deal within about 18 months, the average time frame in which its technology moves from screening to having a preclinical candidate ready for toxicology studies, enabling an investigational new drug application. Boehringer, he said, wants to move as quickly as possible for competitive reasons.

For privately held TransTech, the agreement serves as another showcase to validate its lead-finding abilities. The TTP Translational Technology is comprised of in silico modelling software and a hit-finding library with molecules that aren't family specific, have drug-like properties and low molecular weight. By contrast, Ireland said libraries typically employed by big pharmaceutical companies are more restricted because the concentrations they can screen are less robust.

An automated and fully integrated drug discovery process, TTP Translational Technology already has worked effectively against a range of biological targets including protein-protein interactions, receptor modulators and enzyme inhibitors.

An "underlying knowledge" of compound properties, gleaned from TransTech's own internal development efforts that have produced three Phase II compounds and another in Phase I, with about a dozen others moving toward the clinic, "makes us attractive for these companies to come to us," Ireland said.

Some of the 6-year-old company's partnerships include deals with Novo Nordisk A/S, of Bagsvaerd, Denmark; Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J.; Cephalon Inc., of West Chester, Pa.; and SIGA Technologies Inc., of New York.

He later added that TransTech's involvement "in every major therapeutic area that the industry works on," is a "testament to the underlying technology." The most advanced products in its portfolio include TTP889 for thrombosis, TTP488 for Alzheimer's disease and TTPABC for diabetic complications.

The company has raised about $100 million since its 1999 inception.

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