Washington Editor

Thios Pharmaceuticals Inc. licensed exclusive worldwide rights to a recombinant form of the human PSGL-1 glycoprotein from Wyeth.

The compound, formerly referred to as rPSGL-lg, became available for licensure after Wyeth and partner Neose Technologies Inc., of Horsham, Pa., halted its development in May 2002 on poor Phase II data. (See BioWorld Today, May 13, 2002.)

While Wyeth and Neose were looking at rPSGL-lg (now called TS1) as a treatment for myocardial infarction, Thios plans to study it in the prevention of delayed graft function following kidney transplantation and as a treatment for acute crisis in sickle cell disease.

Founded in 2000, Thios works on therapies that target biological sulfation, which is known to be involved in the regulation of cellular interactions and cell-to-cell communication. The company said it believes sulfation could play a role in inflammation, cancer and infectious disease.

Bruce Hironaka, president and CEO of Emeryville, Calif.-based Thios, said TS1, as a sulfated compound, fits well within the company's drug development strategy and will help the privately held firm mature more rapidly.

"To find a compound that had already reached the clinic where sulfation was the critical element for its binding capability was, frankly, a gem for us to be able to grab hold of," Hironaka told BioWorld Today.

He declined to disclose the financial arrangement with Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth. However, he characterized the deal as typical for the industry.

As Thios' lead compound, TS1 will enter a Phase I bridging study by the end of the year. Under Wyeth's watchful eye, TS1 demonstrated safety in studies including more than 500 people.

Thios plans to pursue TS1 on its own for now, yet might consider a high-quality partner down the road if warranted, Hironaka said.

Beneath TS1, Thios' most advanced internal discovery program involves an antibody targeting a sulfated glycoprotein believed to be involved in chronic inflammation.

Thios was founded on the science of Steven Rosen, a professor of immunology and cardiovascular research at the University of California at San Francisco; Carolyn Bertozzi, professor of chemistry and molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley; Ted Yednock; and Stefan Hemmerich, head of biology at Thios. They have studied the role of sulfation of proteins and sugars and how that process causes disease.

The company's goal is to create a pipeline of product opportunities from its internal discovery efforts or through licenses. Beyond that, Hironaka said Thios has expertise and technology in sulfation that would be valuable to other companies interested in pursuing areas that are not of interest to Thios.

Just more than a year ago, Thios signed its first collaboration, signing a deal with Cambridge, Mass.-based Dyax Corp. Dyax will use its antibody phage display technology to identify and characterize antibodies that bind specifically to the Thios target, with the goal of blocking the sulfated target and inhibiting inflammation in vitro and in vivo.

Thios, which employs 24 people, raised $15 million in its Series A financing in May 2002. Hironaka expects a Series B during this quarter. He said the company has sufficient funds to take it to the completion of that financing. (See BioWorld Today, May 6, 2002.)