BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Entomed SA, focused on therapeutic compounds based on natural peptides and small molecules derived from insects, signed a two-way screening agreement with Naeja Pharmaceutical Inc. to identify drug targets in cancer and infectious diseases.

The agreement provides for Naeja, of Edmonton, Alberta, to have access to the Entomotheque library of insect-derived molecules and analogues of Strasbourg, France-based Entomed for the screening of ß-lactamase inhibitors, which are the enzymes responsible for bacterial resistance to common antibiotics such as penicillins and cephalosporins. Concurrently, Entomed is to screen Naeja's compounds library for anti-proliferative activities. Financial details were not disclosed.

The deal is aimed at generating new lead compounds for the companies' product pipelines and allows them to share the intellectual property arising from any discoveries. Also, they each will have an option to develop compounds that display promising biological activity in their respective fields of interest. Entomed's research is focused on infectious diseases, cancer, ion channel effects and immunomodulation, while Naeja is similarly specialized in infectious diseases and cancer as well as inflammation.

Entomed CEO Jean Combalbert said the deal is doubly interesting. It will generate added value for the company's Entomotheque library, as well as giving it the possibility of discovering new leads for its anticancer drug discovery program. The deal marks the first time Entomed has given a third party access to its library, and Combalbert said it "expects to sign a number of similar deals in the near future," but targeted at other therapeutic areas.

Entomed's lead compound, ETD-151, is in late-stage preclinical development for the treatment of hospital-acquired invasive fungal infections. A Phase I trial is scheduled to begin in the second half of this year.