Washington Editor

Syntonix Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Dyax Corp. entered a collaboration for the discovery and development of therapeutic antibodies to treat autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.

Syntonix, a Waltham, Mass.-based firm, will provide assays and reagents, as well as certain preclinical development work, to Dyax, which will use its antibody libraries to screen for clinical candidates.

"[This is] a great opportunity for us to get to a drug candidate much more rapidly than if we tried to do the antibody screening on our own or went to some of the other antibody companies," Garen Bohlin, Syntonix's president and CEO, told BioWorld Today. "Dyax has outstanding screening capabilities, and we also like the development infrastructure they have in place. I think as a partner, beyond identifying what is likely to be a very interesting antibody drug candidate, they complement us nicely on the development side."

Indeed, Sondra Henrichon, director, investor relations and corporate communications for Cambridge, Mass.-based Dyax, told BioWorld Today that Dyax's antibody capabilities and libraries are helping it make a name for itself.

"The agreement with Syntonix is again validation of the state-of-the-art antibody libraries that we offer for our collaborators," she said. "We are increasingly being recognized for that in the market, and we continue to do an increasing number of antibody-based collaborations."

Dyax's biopharmaceutical business is based on its phage display technology, which is used to identify proteins, peptides and antibodies that bind with high affinity and high specificity to targets.

Meanwhile, upon successful completion of discovery work within the partnership, the firms will have the option to advance the antibody (or antibodies) into clinical development under the terms of a global co-development and commercialization agreement, Bohlin said.

The discovery phase of the deal, expected to take about 12 months, does not include financial arrangements, Bohlin said, adding that once a product candidate is identified, the co-development and commercialization section of the arrangement kicks in. "We have some parameters outlined there, but they would be firmed up later," he said.

While products would be targeted at a number of autoimmune disorders, Bohlin said Syntonix wasn't free to speculate on what the main targets will be. "The bottom line is that the mechanism of action is such that it could be applied to a platform of autoimmune disorders," he said.

Beyond its technology collaborations, Dyax is building its own healthy therapeutics business, Henrichon said.

The firm's lead candidate, DX-88, is being developed for the treatment of hereditary angioedema in a 50-50 collaboration with Genzyme Corp., also of Cambridge. The candidate has orphan drug status in the U.S. and Europe in the indication.

Henrichon said the partners expect data on two potential pivotal Phase II trials in June. Outside the deal with Genzyme, Dyax is studying DX-88 in cardiopulmonary bypass surgery on its own.

Dyax also is working on DX-890 in conjunction with Debiopharm SA, of Lausanne, Switzerland, in cystic fibrosis. The partners recently completed a Phase II in the CF indication.

Dyax's stock (NASDAQ:DYAX) Thursday was up 85 cents to close at $13.95.