BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Cerep SA signed two service contracts with Sanofi-Synthélabo, calling for it to create a chemical library using its combinatorial chemistry platform and to undertake high-throughput profiling on behalf of the Paris-based pharmaceutical company.

The chemical library will consist of several thousand compounds combining monomers from the companies, which set up a joint committee to select the building blocks and design the compounds. Cerep, of Rueil-Malmaison, will be responsible for synthesizing them. Once the synthesis has been completed, all of the compounds will be analyzed to ensure they comply with the high-purity standards laid down in the contract.

Cerep Chairman and CEO Thierry Jean told BioWorld International that the exact number of compounds to be synthesized is confidential, but said it would run into tens of thousands and that the work would be completed this year. All the compounds will relate to a particular therapeutic class corresponding to one of Sanofi's drug discovery programs.

The second contract calls for Cerep to apply its high-throughput profiling technology to the products emerging from all of Sanofi-Synthélabo's research programs, Jean said. Cerep will analyze the compounds to determine their pharmacological and pharmaceutical parameters in order to predict their potential side effects, bioavailability and potential toxicity.

Sanofi has subcontracted some profiling work to Cerep in the past, but Jean said this comprehensive contract reflects the fact that it is now "profiling more and profiling earlier," like all pharmaceutical companies. Sanofi-Synthélabo expects the results will enable it to rationalize its drug candidate optimization process.

The contracts are not related to the drug discovery collaboration in which Cerep and Sanofi-Synthélabo have been engaged since December 1997. In February, the companies signed an addendum renewing and broadening that collaboration, agreeing to push ahead with the two most advanced research programs, to drop two less promising projects and to initiate high-throughput screening and optimization of hits for two new targets of therapeutic interest.

The scope of their collaboration already had been enlarged in early 1999 to include the screening of two additional targets, in return for which Sanofi doubled its annual research and development funding to Cerep. Cerep is due to receive milestones from Sanofi-Synthélabo, as well as royalties on the future sales of drugs resulting from their joint research programs.

No milestones or royalties will be payable within the framework of those latest deals, Jean said, stressing that they are strictly fee-for-service contracts.

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