BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - The French functional genomics company CareX signed a research collaboration agreement with Chemical Diversity Labs to support its drug discovery activities in the field of metabolic diseases.

The deal calls for Chemical Diversity Labs, of San Diego, to give CareX access to several banks of bioactive molecules, including a number of selected leads, which CareX will screen using its own rational drug design technology. The leads consist of compounds that are compatible with the specific structures of the targets on which CareX is focused. They were identified by Chemical Diversity Labs using specific algorithms created by another San Diego-based company, Molsoft. CDL then synthesized the potential ligands and selected compounds of potential interest to CareX from its bank of 370,000 bioactive products, which it says is the world's largest collection of small-molecule compounds designed to generate hits.

The CEO of CareX, Bernard Gilly, told BioWorld International that the company would file patents for the selected compounds it considered particularly interesting, pointing out that securing intellectual property rights to such compounds took place on a "first come, first served" basis. He added that there was no limit to the number of products CareX could screen, select and patent. There is no fixed term to the collaboration, the financial terms of which were not disclosed.

CareX, which was established in November 2001 and is based in Strasbourg, is focusing its drug discovery programs on Type II diabetes, arterial hypertension, atherosclerosis and hypercholesterolemia. Gilly said it had so far identified four targets for preclinical study and possible lead optimization and that it would decide at the end of 2003 which of these will be the drug candidate it takes into clinical development in 2004.

The company identifies drug targets using a combination of high-throughput screening and combinatorial chemistry. Its technology, which entails screening a variety of products as well as banks of specific compounds against comparable targets in order to narrow down the chemical space for hits, was jointly developed by CareX and Chemical Diversity Labs.

CareX also uses Serial Analysis of Gene Expression technology to identify genes associated with phenomena such as insulin-resistance syndrome and obesity. Its strategy is to validate these target genes, identify the relevant disease pathways using mouse models, and apply high-throughput screening to select leads for optimization as drug candidates.

The company completed an initial funding round in April in which it raised -6 million from a group of venture capital funds that included Paris-based Sofinnova Partners, which provided -3.3 million, and GIMV, of Antwerp, Belgium, which put up -2 million. That gave it sufficient resources to fund its research and development programs through 2003.