BioWorld International Correspondent

DUBLIN, Ireland - Billam plc, a London-based investment vehicle, has orchestrated a three-way merger between early stage portfolio companies and has invested £1.4 million (US$2.2 million) in the enlarged entity.

The transaction unites Cork, Ireland-based Eirx Therapeutics Ltd., which is focused on apoptosis target discovery and drug development, with Physiomics plc, an in silico systems biology specialist based at Oxford University, and CuDos Ltd., a company based at Nottingham Trent University in the UK that is developing non-animal in vitro toxicity testing methods.

Sam Holtzman, co-founder of Entelos Inc., of Menlo Park, Calif., was appointed chairman of the new company, which is called Eirx Pharma Ltd. and headquartered in Cork.

"The company is predominantly Irish and there it will sit," Peter Hoskins, a director of Eirx Pharma and co-founder of Billam, told BioWorld International. George Morris is fulfilling the CEO and chief operating officer roles at present.

Its main therapeutic focus will be on oncology, respiratory disease and inflammation. All three constituent companies are cooperating on a project investigating the Akt pathway in cancer. But the model on which Eirx Pharma has been established is based on generating revenues throughout its life cycle. Physiomics' mathematical simulations of biological and biochemical processes and CuDos' in vitro toxicity testing services will be the main earners initially.

Physiomics has developed and patented predictive technology that models cellular responses to metabolic triggers. "What we are actually trying to do is to identify the real control coefficients within metabolic pathways," Hoskins said. The CuDos platform, he said, "is a wet chemistry validation of what happens in an in silico model." The apoptosis expertise within the company stems from the work of Tom Cotter, professor of biochemistry at University College Cork (UCC) and a leading authority in the area.

The other shareholders in the new company include UCC, the Irish government agency Enterprise Ireland, and 3i plc, of London.