Washington Editor

In its first research collaboration, Triad Therapeutics Inc. has teamed up with the Schering-Plough Research Institute to discover novel compounds with antifungal activity.

Schering-Plough (SPRI) will supply the targets, and Triad, of San Diego, will screen them against its existing collection of compounds.

"What's novel about this deal is that we've spent a couple of years developing a set of molecules designed to inhibit targets that are members of the oxidoreductase gene family," Joel Smith, Triad's executive director of business development, told BioWorld Today. "The goal here is that the screening will reveal that we have molecules that bind tightly and with high affinity and high specificity to our partner's target. And then, they will have the option to license one or more of those hits."

While a confidentially agreement with SPRI prevented Smith from discussing financial details of the agreement, Smith characterized the payment system as "modest," adding that the work required under the agreement also is modest because it takes advantage of molecules that already have been designed and synthesized.

Nevertheless, Triad said SPRI will pay it an initiation fee and if SPRI exercises options to license compounds discovered in the collaboration, it would make additional payments to Triad, including royalties on the sales of any products resulting from the collaboration.

The agreement with SPRI - the pharmaceutical research division of Schering-Plough Corp., of Kenilworth, N.J. - is key to Triad, a three-year-old company, because it validates Triad's technology and could lead to other partnership agreements, Smith said.

Triad integrates structural biology and medicinal chemistry to accelerate the discovery and development of potent, small-molecule drugs. The company uses its expertise in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis of proteins to guide the synthesis of gene family-focused libraries of bi-ligand inhibitors.

Oxidoreductases represent Triad's first gene family and the company is working to expand its NMR-based and structured-guided approach to other gene families, including kinases. The company said oxidoreductases represent $22 billion in annual drug sales, and Triad believes that this gene family also contains hundreds of additional targets in a variety of therapeutic areas.

"Since we expect to be so efficient in developing lead molecules, our challenge is to do the best things we can with those molecules to build the business first and foremost," Smith said. "We will take some of those molecules and develop them ourselves, but we will not be able to develop them all."

He said the company is discussing partnerships with other companies, but wouldn't elaborate on details.

Triad, an employer of 63 people, started operations in 1999 on $12.5 million raised in its first round of funding. In January 2001, the company raised $30 million in its Series B financing, and currently the company has partially completed another round, but is not ready to release additional information. (See BioWorld Today, July 6, 1999, and Jan. 5, 2001.)

Stephen Coutts, the company's president, said it expects to file its first investigational new drug application for an antibiotic in mid-2004.