Washington Editor

Xerion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Arius Research Inc. signed a deal to combine their research and discovery skills to develop colon cancer drugs.

The companies said they will share revenues from out-licensed targets, co-develop the targets or pay the other party for an exclusive license to the targets. Specific financial details were not disclosed.

Using four antibodies from the Arius functional antibody library, Xerion, of Cambridge, Mass., will be responsible for validating therapeutic potential and identifying targets.

"We generate functional antibodies and in working with Xerion, we're going to look for the targets, of course, because if you have them and they kill cancer cells, then you've got a potential drug candidate," Helen Findlay, vice president of Toronto-based Arius, told BioWorld Today.

She added that the companies have been in discussions for several months, during which Arius reviewed Martinsried, Germany-based Xerion's strengths in proteomics and determined it would make a compatible partner. "We felt that we had both the potential on the science and technology front to bring a lot of stress to bear on identifying the targets and also the opportunity for a fruitful working relationship because of the cultural fit," she said.

Meanwhile, Yukari Perrella, Xerion's president, told BioWorld Today that Xerion will use its Xstream technology to "ascertain directly the function of proteins. Through this process, we first validate the function of the protein or target in a disease-relevant biological context and we demonstrate that it's important for the disease process using cell-based assays, then we identify the target. Normally people identify the character of the target then try to ascertain the function. We do the function first so we already know it's relevant for disease process."

Xerion's core technology has been used to functionally validate more than 50 proteins in a disease-relevant biological context, the company said. And Arius has shown that antibodies discovered through its technology can have anticancer properties, it said. To date, Arius has established a library of more than 100 functional antibodies.

The agreement with Xerion marks the third such deal for Arius, a company founded in August 1999. In July, Arius and Oxford BioMedica plc, of Oxford, UK., entered a deal in which Arius agreed to supply 50 anticancer antibodies for Oxford to characterize and identify the cognate antigens. And just a week ago, Arius signed a research agreement with Protein Design Labs Inc., of Fremont, Calif., to evaluate novel anticancer antibodies.

As for Xerion, Tuesday's agreement follows a recent target characterization and drug discovery research collaboration with Cambridge Antibody Technology plc, of Melbourn, UK.