BioWorld International Correspondent

Arpida Ltd. and Combio A/S entered a three-year, shared-cost collaboration focused on the development of novel antibiotics.

Arpida is engaged in discovery and development of antimicrobial drugs. Combio is a platform technology and discovery firm spun out of Danish brewing giant Carlsberg A/S.

Muenchenstein, Switzerland-based Arpida is supplying two bacterial protease targets, plus a series of lead compounds. Copenhagen, Denmark-based Combio is supplying its proprietary screening system, which is based on the use of inert beads to which individual members of a compound library are bound, as well as its combinatorial chemistry expertise. Binding interactions between targets and leads can be identified through a basic fluorescence assay, while simple sorting techniques can separate out beads that register a hit during a screen.

Carlsberg spun out Combio in late 2000 in order to exploit that technology, which it developed in collaboration with the Center for Solid-Phase Organic Combinatorial Chemistry in Copenhagen. (See BioWorld International, Jan. 10, 2001.)

This initiative represents the first external collaboration for Arpida, although it is evaluating additional alliances with other biotechnology firms and pharmaceutical companies, President and CEO Khalid Islam told BioWorld International. "We are trying to get one or two additional deals by mid-next year, latest," he said. Combio's experience of working with metalloproteases was one of the factors that influenced the present alliance. "They have a great deal of expertise with these kind of assays, so that's why we chose them for these targets," he said.

Arpida, which was formed in 1997, has one antibiotic, Iclaprim (formerly called AR-100), in clinical development. "It is currently in Phase II. We are looking to complete Phase II in [the second quarter of] 2003," Islam said.

The compound was the subject of 15 posters and an oral session at the recent Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Diego. It inhibits the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase, thereby disrupting folic acid production, which is essential for DNA synthesis. An existing antibiotic, Trimethoprim, targets the same enzyme, but has a different clinical and microbiological profile and is used primarily to treat urinary tract infections. Iclaprim has a broad spectrum of activity, against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. It is being developed for treatment of severe hospital infections associated with surgical abscesses, severe burns and infected ulcers.

Arpida is developing another lead, AR-103, which targets the same enzyme but which has a different structure and biological activity. "That compound we think will fit the bill for community infections of the respiratory tract, in particular against Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenza," Islam said. It should enter the clinic either late next year or early in 2004, the company said. Arpida has 11 other projects at earlier stages of development.

The company raised CHF40 million (US$26.7 million) in its second funding round in late 2000. It still has enough cash for the next 12 to 18 months at least, but plans to embark on a road show to raise a third round in the coming weeks, despite the gloomy investment climate. "We don't believe in waiting for sunshine when we have to cross the road," said Chief Financial Officer Harry Welten.