CuraGen Corp. and Bayer AG said they developed a technology capable of predicting a drug compound's potential for toxicity.

As a result, CuraGen, of New Haven, Conn., received a milestone payment of $2.9 million from Bayer for developing the technology successfully into a high-throughput format.

The Predictive Toxicogenomics Screen evaluates drug toxicities using small quantities of compounds that are available immediately after high-throughput drug screening. By using the screen early in the development process, scientists are able to rank compounds by their predicted safety profiles, providing information that could save time and money in research and development.

Bayer, of Leverkusen, Germany, evaluated more than 150 preclinical drug compounds with the predictive screen and ranked those compounds according to their potential for toxicity. Based on the initial success of its application, Bayer and CuraGen said their scientists are now applying the technology to drug toxicity evaluations on Bayer's small-molecule research pipeline.

"We believe the adoption of this screen will offer a significant competitive advantage in pharmaceutical development," Michael McKenna, CuraGen's vice president of collaborative research, said in a prepared statement.

The screen is designed to enable inexpensive cellular screening of thousands of compounds annually, and provides results on nine different modes of liver toxicity, CuraGen said.

CuraGen and Bayer developed the assay by analyzing more than 100 known toxic compounds and identifying marker genes whose activity correlates with specific modes of liver toxicity. Those genes have been subcategorized into marker sets predictive of the nine specific liver histopathologies, including cholestasis, necrosis and hypertrophy, and affixed to gene expression microarrays for use in high-throughput comparative analysis.