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The drug target was not disclosed and neither were the financial terms of the deal, but Locus Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals Inc. entered a research collaboration to develop a treatment for diabetes.

Joseph Reiser, CEO of Blue Bell, Pa.-based Locus, said the target is "not a common" one, adding that the P&G deal signals his privately held firm's movement from developing its technology to applying the method. An internal program for cancer is nearing trials that would enable an investigational new drug application, he said.

Meanwhile, Locus, with Cincinnati-based P&G, will apply computational drug design technology to identify new binding sites on the target protein, with an aim of coming up with a drug that can regulate blood glucose.

P&G is providing an up-front fee and research support for Locus, which uses a "super computer" that performs 2.3 trillion calculations per second, to fully identify and characterize all binding sites.

Computing speed and capacity are important "because our algorithms are very complex," Reiser said. "If we took the fastest desktop computers you could find, you're talking about years vs. weeks of computing" to do the same job.

To boost speed even more, Locus in December said it had entered a collaboration with Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp. to use the IBM's Deep Computing Capacity on Demand center for research and drug design in one of Locus' programs for HIV and AIDS.

"We're at a point where we can do a reasonable [computing] job in two weeks, and we're hoping to get closer to real time, doing it in days," Reiser told BioWorld Today. "That's a huge impact."

In the P&G deal, Locus also is charged with custom designing novel molecules against the target protein by combining high-affinity fragments from its proprietary 40,000-member set.

"We thought [the arrangement] is a unique synergy of their existing know-how on a target they have worked on for some time, and our ability to match the development of that target with our technology," Reiser said, noting that Locus also has been investigating a potential diabetes treatment that involves a kinase-based target.

About a week ago, Locus acquired for undisclosed financial terms Protein Mechanics Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., gaining simulation technology to complement Locus' approach.

Although the buyout was in the works well before the P&G deal, "it's fair to say the Protein Mechanics technology is very relevant to this collaboration," Reiser said.

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