BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Aptanomics SA signed an agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim in aptamer-based target validation and drug discovery.

The agreement calls for Lyon-based Aptanomics to provide Boehringer, of Ingelheim, Germany, with a panel of its peptide aptamers and characterize the consequence of binding to therapeutic targets.

Aptanomics' business development director, Ivan Baines, told BioWorld International that Boehringer did not want the therapeutic fields or targets involved to be disclosed. He did say that it was the fifth formalized collaboration Aptanomics had entered, and that none of them covered oncology, which is the focus of all six of the company's in-house drug discovery programs.

The financial terms were not disclosed.

The peptide aptamer technology used by Aptanomics was developed by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Peptide aptamers are a new class of combinatorial protein reagents that pinpoint druggable sites on therapeutic targets, and the French company has exclusive rights to use the technology for drug discovery and as biological therapeutics.

The technology makes it possible to identify high-affinity peptide aptamers that inhibit defined protein-protein interactions in regulatory pathways that are affected in pathological conditions such as cancer. Those aptamers can then be used in specific assays to screen collections of small-molecule organic compounds for inhibitors of key protein interactions. Moreover, computer-assisted models of the target-aptamer complex can guide the design of focused chemical sets for further screening to identify potent drug candidates.

Baines stressed that one of the advantages of the approach is that it can be applied to any therapeutic field, and that its partners were working in different diseases from Aptanomics.

That said, the company has partnered with a third party to support its in-house programs for discovering small-molecule drugs for cancer. In May 2004 it concluded an agreement with Nanosyn Inc., of Menlo Park, Calif., which focuses on small organic compounds for the biopharmaceutical industry. The agreement provided for Aptanomics to use its peptide aptamer technology to screen the compound libraries of Nanosyn and identify initial hits, and for Nanosyn to use its proprietary "chemistry-on-demand" platform to provide Aptanomics with focused arrays of small molecules and other medicinal chemistry services.

Baines confirmed that Aptanomics' two leading drug discovery programs were progressing as planned and that the company was "on target" for a Phase I trial of its lead compound in 2007.

He also said that the company was "on the runway to its next funding round. We are exploring a number of options for refinancing the company and should have news on that within the next month or two." Aptanomics, which was founded in 2001, completed an initial funding round in November 2002 in which it raised €7 million (US$8.5 million), and the company said at the time that it had sufficient funds "through to mid-to-late 2005." Since then, though, Aptanomics had "extended its cash lifeline through collaborations," Baines said.

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