BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Aptanomics SA and Nanosyn Inc. entered into a drug discovery collaboration in the field of oncology.

The agreement provides for Lyon-based Aptanomics to use its peptide aptamer technology to screen the small organic compound libraries of Nanosyn, of Menlo Park, Calif. Peptide aptamers are a new class of combinatorial protein reagents designed to pinpoint druggable sites on therapeutic targets.

Once initial hits are identified, Nanosyn will use its "chemistry-on-demand" platform to provide Aptanomics with highly focused arrays of small molecules and other medicinal chemistry services.

Aptanomics' business development director, Ivan Baines, told BioWorld International that both companies had agreed to make an up-front investment in the collaboration, after which the "division of labor will be about equal," so the costs effectively will be shared.

Aptanomics, which was founded in 2001, is using its peptide aptamer technology to develop small-molecule drugs for cancer. The technology enables it to identify high-affinity peptide aptamers that inhibit defined protein-protein interactions in regulatory pathways that are affected in pathological conditions such as cancer. The aptamers can then be used in specific assays to screen collections of small-molecule organic compounds for inhibitors of key protein interactions. Moreover, computer-assisted models of the target-aptamer complex can guide the design of focused chemical sets for further screening to identify drug candidates.

Baines explained that Nanosyn wanted to test Aptanomics' screening platform to see what hit rate it achieved, pointing out that the raison d' tre of the technology was to improve the drug discovery success rate. He said the idea was for the collaboration to "go on to the drug discovery and optimization phase and the development of clinical candidates."

As for Aptanomics' own drug discovery programs, Baines said it was reasonable to think it would have a lead compound in clinical trials by 2007, stressing that there had been "no setbacks, no disappointments to date." Having completed an initial funding round in November 2002 in which it raised €7 million, Aptanomics is in a "comfortable" cash position, he said, since it had sufficient funds "to mid-to-late 2005."

He added that the company had "opportunities for generating revenues in the short term" in the form of research funding and milestones from research collaborations and co-development deals. The agreement with Nanosyn was the fourth collaboration Aptanomics had signed and sealed, he said, adding that several others are subjects of letters of intent.