Libraria Inc. named a new CEO, Peter Myers, in an effort to build the two-year-old company focused on drug discovery technology and development.

His mission will be to take the company to the next level of drug discovery, said Libraria President and Chief Scientific Officer Barry Bunin, who founded the company in February 2000 and previously served as CEO.

"At first, we created this technology to capture all the chemical information and the biological information on gene family targets," Bunin said. "Now, our focus is to use all the knowledge that we've accumulated to discover drug candidates either for ourselves internally or for our partners."

The company boasts as one of its initial investors Alejandro Zaffaroni, who was a founder and CEO of Alza Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J.; founder of Affymax Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., and Affymetrix Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif.; as well as a founding investor in Symyx Technologies Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., and Maxygen Inc., of Redwood City, Calif.

"We call him a special adviser to the company, and meet with him on a biweekly basis," Bunin said. "He's been instrumental in nurturing and helping the company grow financially as well as strategically."

At the moment, things are happening fast, he said. The latest big move is the appointment of Myers, who has served on its board since October. Most recently, he was executive vice president and site director of Deltagen Research Laboratories, part of Deltagen Inc., of Redwood City. Prior to that, he served as West Coast director for DuPont Pharmaceuticals, of Wilmington, Del.

In May, San Jose, Calif.-based Libraria signed two deals. The first was with Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc., of South San Francisco. That agreement involved the licensing of Libraria's small-molecule drug technology to enable Rigel to more rapidly identify lead compounds as it expands its chemistry efforts.

"We work with them developing some unique technologies and to develop molecules for kinases, which are important targets for cell signaling and immune diseases and cancer," Bunin said.

The second deal signed in May was with Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis. Libraria will apply its technology to Lilly targets.

"We're looking to design new inhibitors," Bunin said.

Bunin said the company will be looking to enter other deals, and is in the process of selecting the best partners to complement its technologies.

He describes Libraria's technology as a "cookbook for chemists of all the recipes for making molecules."

"We have some intelligent algorithms that will tell you statistically what are likely to be the best molecules for specific problems," he said.

The company's approach is to focus on the gene family targets at the molecular level, and those gene families can have multiple therapeutic applications, he said.

The collaborations have a "people" component to them, rather than being just a technology licensing agreement, he said. Using Libraria's technology can speed up a company's knowledge about a target.

"That is important because companies are spending millions and millions on preclinical drug discovery research," Bunin said. "If you can get to the clinic a half a year faster, that could be half a million dollars."

Libraria has raised more than $7 million to date, he said.

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