BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - KS Biomedix Holdings plc said its industrial/academic joint venture, Discerna Ltd., has made significant progress, producing its first antibody candidate and agreeing to research collaborations with a European diagnostics company and a U.S pharmaceutical company.

Discerna was set up in June 2001 to commercialize ribosome display and protein array technologies developed at the charitably funded Babraham Institute in Cambridge.

Ian Miscampbell, chief operating officer of KSB, told BioWorld International, "We are absolutely pleased with the joint venture. It is a smashing piece of technology. There was a lot of work to do to structure it in the right way, but these developments show the technical challenges have been overcome."

Miscampbell added that it had been the right decision to set up a joint venture, rather than going to a third party for antibody discovery services. "It was better to go this route, when you look at the amount of capital investment we have made. It was a lot more efficient in cash terms than going to a third party."

When it is fully developed, Discerna's ribosomal display technology is expected to have time advantages over other means of generating antibodies because the method keeps the ribosome complex together following protein translation. This means that a protein can be identified through its interaction with a target molecule while still being linked to the messenger RNA from which it came. As a result it is straightforward to recover the DNA that encodes the protein, making it easier to evolve improved versions of antibodies or proteins of interest, the company said.

Miscampbell said it has not been decided yet if the antibody discovered by Discerna will be taken forward. Discerna also is generating antibodies to two other KSB targets.

Under the first external development agreement, Discerna will generate antibodies against a target owned by a U.S. pharmaceutical company. Details of the partner and the target were not disclosed.

Under the second agreement, Discerna will generate antibodies to a target owned by the diagnostics company Randox Laboratories Ltd. If successful, Randox will take a nonexclusive license to Discerna's ribosomal display technology for use in diagnostic applications.

KSB, based in Guildford, agreed to fund Discerna for two years, until June 2003. "The financing point is coming with Discerna," said Miscampbell. "In the coming months we will look at all the options."