BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Genfit and the French pharmaceutical company Servier entered a collaboration to identify drug candidates based on molecular mechanisms of action in obesity and related metabolic disorders.

The companies are to focus in the first instance on two targets identified by Genfit and expect to generate drug candidates rapidly.

The agreement is for an initial five-year term and provides for Lille-based Genfit to receive an undisclosed up-front payment, annual research funding, potential milestones and royalties on arising products. In exchange, Paris-based Servier will have exclusive worldwide rights to develop and market drugs against the selected targets.

Genfit CEO Jean-François Mouney told BioWorld International the deal was "the result of nearly three years of internal research," during which Genfit had made advances with two "very innovative" targets for obesity and related cardiovascular diseases. It already had filed patents for the targets, he said, and high-throughput screening of compounds against those targets would start within a year.

Genfit is focused on gene malfunction and deregulation. The main focus of its in-house research and development is global cardiovascular risk, for which it is developing compounds with multiple effects that simultaneously target diseases such as atherosclerosis, stroke, obesity and diabetes. It also has programs in inflammation and metabolic diseases.

The deal with Servier is the ninth drug discovery collaboration Genfit has concluded with a pharmaceutical company. While Mouney declined to put a figure on its potential value, he described it as one of the two or three most valuable deals the company has concluded.

Meanwhile, Genfit is preparing to launch a Phase I trial of its lead candidate for global cardiovascular risk later this year, which would be followed by a Phase II trial in 2005. The product is an association between a statin and another compound and was targeted at primary prevention, he said. He added that Genfit had two more products in its pipeline, both designed to treat the consequences of a cardiac incident. Further down the road, Mouney said Genfit was aiming for an IPO in 2007.

Servier is France's largest privately owned pharmaceutical company, employing 16,000 people worldwide, with 70 subsidiaries in 140 countries. Its main therapeutic focus is on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neuropsychiatric disorders, cancer, and bone and joint diseases. It has 30 approved drugs.

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