BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Lectus Therapeutics Ltd., a specialist in ion channel drug discovery, attracted a £1 million-plus (US$1.8 million) research and development investment from Takeda Research Investment Inc., just nine months after spinning out of Bristol University.

Lectus is developing a functional proteomics platform for the discovery of second-generation ion channel modulators. Rather than focusing on the Pore Forming Domain (PFD) of ion channels that are targeted by existing drugs, Lectus will concentrate on accessory proteins that bind to the PFD.

As there are many different accessory proteins, compounds that modulate their interaction with the PFD are expected to be far more selective than drugs that act directly on the pore.

"My view is that by accessing Lectus' technology platform, Takeda will put itself ahead of the curve in terms of looking for novel ion channel modulators," Roland Kozlowski, CEO of Lectus, told BioWorld International.

Takeda, of Palo Alto, Calif., was set up in 2002 to invest in early stage companies specializing in disease areas of importance to its parent company, Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., based in Osaka and Japan's largest pharmaceutical company.

The research Leptus will carry out for Takeda will focus on an undisclosed target. The investment is, in effect, a fee for service and Takeda will not have an equity stake in Lectus.

"The deal with TRI is an important validation," Kozlowski said. "It represents a huge endorsement of our approach."

The money will enable the further development of the functional proteomics platform Leptics (Leveraged Enabling Proteomics Technology for Ion Channel Screening) a high-throughput system consisting of correctly folded, functional, ion channel accessory proteins, immobilized on a solid surface.

Lectus' in-house discovery program will focus on smooth-muscle hyper-reactivity disorders, angina, hypertension and urinary bladder disorders. Kozlowski said some small-molecule hits already have been identified.

Apart from enabling the development of more selective - and therefore pharmacologically distinct - ion channel modulators, the Leptics technology makes ion channels, as a target, easier to deal with.

"The way we look for modulators is quite different from other companies," Kozlowski said. "Everyone else is looking at the pore, which requires difficult techniques like patch clamping. We look at the proteins that modulate the core."

Before the Takeda deal, Lectus' sole source of funding was an undisclosed seed financing by Sulis Seedcorn Fund, which provides support for early stage commercialization of research generated by the universities of Bath, Bristol and Southampton.

Kozlowski said the company will look for venture capital but hasn't initiated the process yet. He also expects to do further deals with pharmaceutical companies and already has received interest.

"There are more than 400 ion channel genes, so there is an awful lot of scope for partnering," he said.