BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Faust Pharmaceuticals, which is developing neuroprotective therapies for chronic neurodegenerative diseases, acquired Euroclide, which is specialized in the identification of new molecules targeted at G protein-coupled receptors, through a stock exchange.

Faust's CEO, Gregory Chapron, told BioWorld International that Faust had deliberately overvalued Euroclide relative to its technological worth in order to motivate its shareholders and give them a significant stake in Faust. Euroclide, like Faust, is based in Strasbourg.

Chapron also disclosed that Faust, which was founded in October 2001 and completed an initial €3 million funding in April 2002, is negotiating a second round in which it hopes to raise €12 million and which he expects will close within the next few months.

With the acquisition of Euroclide, Faust says its screening platform for the discovery of new molecules involved in the modulation of neurotransmitters now is complete. Describing Euroclide's expertise and technology as "perfectly complementary" to its own programs, Faust expects to benefit from synergies in the development of ligands of presynaptic neuronal receptors in particular.

Faust claims to have developed the first presynaptic discovery platform that measures the impact of drugs on neurodegenerative disorders. Its technology is centered on a fully automated series of chemiluminescent assays that permit the rapid measurement of the five main neurotransmitters (glutamate, acetylcholine, GABA, dopamine and serotonin) in any type of biological material. It is using neurotransmitter regulation as a target for developing therapies for neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Faust's technology enables it not only to identify drugs that reduce or enhance the release of one of the neurotransmitters, but also to discover drugs targeting neurotransmitter presynaptic receptors (such as mGluRs or GABAb) and to assess mechanisms of action in identified drug candidates. In addition, it encompasses an enzyme-based molecule-modification technology called glucuronidation, which improves the neuroprotective activity of drugs, Faust said.

The company is focused on identifying new neuroprotectants by screening known and unknown compounds for their effects on synaptic neurotransmitter concentration. It also is developing drugs modulating neurotransmitter presynaptic GPCRs. It has three compounds in preclinical development and plans to select another two or three leads next year.

Its most advanced drug candidate, FP0011, is a therapy for ALS that lowers the presynaptic release of glutamate and protects neurons from neurotoxin-induced cell death. A Phase I/II trial is due to start in the first quarter of 2004, followed by a full Phase II in the first quarter of 2005.

FP7832, a neuroprotectant for Alzheimer's disease that increases acetylcholine levels and is an antioxidant, is in early preclinical development. A Phase I trial is scheduled for the first quarter of 2005.

Its third product, FP0023, belongs to a new family of compounds that has the potential to induce re-expression of certain silenced genes (in particular fetal genes), enabling them to express proteins to complement or replace a defective or missing one. FP0023, being developed to treat Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, induces the overexpression of utrophin, a homologous protein of the mutated dystrophin. A Phase I/II trial in Duchenne's is due to begin shortly, and would be followed by a Phase II in the fourth quarter of 2004.

Faust's business strategy is to progress drug candidates through Phase I and II trials and then partner.