National Editor

Acquiring the same development team that discovered the topical tazarotene known as Tazorac - though not rights to the acne drug itself - Concurrent Pharmaceuticals Inc. has bought a portfolio of near-clinical compounds from Allergan Inc.'s retinoid and rexinoid nuclear receptor drug program.

"I would call it a logical extension of our core activities," said Jeffrey Hatfield, recently appointed CEO of the Fort Washington, Pa.-based firm, which he described as a small-molecule biotechnology company focused on kinases, nuclear receptors and enzyme inhibitors.

Privately held Concurrent, which has a lead drug discovery program in renin inhibitors for cardiovascular diseases, is giving Allergan undisclosed equity plus potential future milestone payments and royalties in exchange for exclusive license rights to compounds for diabetes and cancer. One dermatology drug is included in the deal. No money is being exchanged up front, Hatfield said, and he declined to say how much cash Concurrent has on hand.

Also in the Allergan deal are exclusive license rights in an estate of more than 900 issued and pending worldwide patents, plus more than 15 programs available for internal or external development. Concurrent's goal is to have two compounds with "validating clinical data" in the next 18 to 24 months.

"We're not disclosing the specifics of that information," Hatfield said, but said "of particular interest are approximately six compounds," the most advanced of which is "early stage clinical."

Retinoids already are used in oncology and dermatology products, Hatfield noted, with experiments ongoing in diabetes and further work in oncology. Allergan in November submitted a new drug application for its oral form of Tazorac.

"It's a pretty exciting field of research," he said, and as part of the deal, the group of researchers that discovered Tazorac will be joining Concurrent in Fort Washington.

Concurrent's pipeline includes drugs against cardiovascular disorders, cancer, skin conditions and metabolic disease. Its Concentric platform integrates drug-design methodologies with medicinal chemistry and biology, evaluating millions of molecules in silico to sort out those with potential absorption and toxicity problems.

"We're going to be practical and find the best way to create value around the assets, but our top priority is to move [compounds] forward ourselves," Hatfield told BioWorld Today, adding that the firm is "in dialogue with numerous pharmaceutical companies on an ongoing basis" and partnering remains an option.

At the start of the year, Concurrent - founded in May 2001 - raised $15 million in its second financing round and formed a collaboration with Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel Corp. to build computers for drug discovery and development. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 13, 2004.)

In the latest deal, Allergan's shares will "have near-equal rights to other B-round investors," and Concurrent's board of directors will be expanded to include a member designated by Allergan, Hatfield said.

Concurrent has about 60 employees. Along with Intel, the firm's investors include Prospect Venture Partners, of Palo Alto, Calif., and Venrock Associates and New Enterprise Associates, both of Menlo Park, Calif.