BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - The University of Glasgow has joined forces with Pharmetix Corp., of Sacramento, Calif., to commercialize a new class of anti-inflammatory, thymosin beta 4 sulphoxide (TB4S), discovered by scientists at the university in 1999.

The two have formed Grannus BioSciences Ltd. with seed funding from Pharmetix and the Synergy Fund, a joint venture between the University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow managed by Scottish Equity Partners.

The amount of seed funding was not disclosed, but Liz McLaughlin Taylor, senior partner of Pharmetix and a manager of Grannus, told BioWorld International there is sufficient funding for a Phase I study of its lead product, Granase, in psoriasis, in 12 to 18 months time.

"There has been equal investment from both sides, and we will use this to advance the value of the drug" by moving it into the clinic, she said.

TB4S is a naturally occurring inhibitor of inflammation in vivo that works by inducing neutrophils to undergo apoptosis. That's thought to be one of the body's mechanisms for signaling that an inflammatory response is beginning to cause damage to the host tissue and should be curtailed.

Since the discovery, scientists in Glasgow have developed and patented a synthetic version, which will be the focus of Grannus' efforts.

"There have been no clinical trials as yet, but preclinical data in vitro and in vivo show efficacy in a number of contexts," McLaughlin Taylor said. In addition to anti-inflammatory effects, TB4S can repair tissue damage caused by inflammation and has wound-healing properties. The preclinical work indicates it has a better side effect profile than steroids and it is expected to be effective in a larger proportion of the patient population than TNF-alpha inhibitors.

Pharmetix specializes in angel investments and has made a number of previous investments in Europe, but it's the first time it also has supplied a management team. McLaughlin Taylor, an alumnus of the University of Glasgow, said the company got involved to overcome the dual problem of shortage of funding and lack of experienced managers for start-ups in Europe.

"There is a large number of small companies with technology licensed at an early stage from universities," she said. "These tend to have a research focus and can't attract experienced management. At the same time, our experience is that there is a lot of good technology, but not enough money to fund it."