BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Diatos SA entered a strategic collaboration with OctoPlus Technologies BV for the development of a universal platform for targeted intracellular delivery of biological molecules such as antibodies, proteins and genes.

Diatos develops intracellular and intranuclear drug delivery systems using peptide vectors for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases. OctoPlus is specialized in polymer-based drug delivery technology.

OctoPlus, of Leiden, the Netherlands, has developed patented biodegradable polymer technologies that efficiently encapsulate either large molecules or DNA and can thus serve as universal carries. The proprietary human peptide-based vectors of Paris-based Diatos can enter living cells and transport large quantities of low- and high-molecular-weight molecules. Those vectors can thus be used for selectively delivering small molecules, nucleic acids, proteins (including antibodies) and polymer-based nanospheres into the cell cytoplasm and nucleus.

Both companies' technologies have succeeded in overcoming the problem of the rapid intracellular elimination of foreign proteins that normally occurs within cells. The combination of their technologies is aimed at making the growing number of pharmacological targets identified inside the cell more accessible to a variety of biological molecules.

Known as Transpepdex, the project is included in the European Union's Eureka program for the promotion of industrial research and development collaborations between companies in different EU countries. As such, it will be funded by grants of €2.5 million from the French and Dutch governments over the five-year term of the collaboration.

The president and CEO of Diatos, John Tchelingerian, told BioWorld International that the collaboration provided for the technology to be taken into clinical development as far as Phase IIa, in order to establish proof of concept. The primary therapeutic application in which it would be tested would be oncology, he said, and since Diatos would be responsible for the clinical development, it would receive a little over half of the funding. Subsequent validation of the technology would be undertaken in partnership with a larger biotechnology or pharmaceutical company, Tchelingerian added.

Diatos was founded in February 1999 and completed an initial funding round in October 2000 in which it raised €15.5 million from a number of venture capital funds (see BioWorld International, Oct. 18, 2000). The company's leading drug candidate, DTS-101, a peptide vector-based doxorubicin anticancer agent, is in late preclinical development and Tchelingerian said a Phase I trial of the drug is scheduled for the first half of 2003.

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