Washington Editor

Syrrx Inc., a private company that has raised $98.5 million since it was founded in 1999, signed a one-year deal with Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. to determine protein structures in multiple therapeutic areas.

Specifically, the agreement will make use of Syrrx’s high-throughput microcrystallization technology in determining protein structures in a number of undisclosed disease areas selected by Roche, of Basel, Switzerland.

Williams Ettouati, chief business officer of San Diego-based Syrrx, told BioWorld Today that financial terms of the agreement are confidential. However, he deferred questions regarding money to a press release that said Roche will pay an up-front access fee, as well as potential milestones, success payments and license fees.

“This deal is the first step in potentially going into a much broader deal with Roche, from the perspective that as we are performing this collaboration, there’s the possibility for them to really get a good assessment of us and possibly move into something much larger later on,” Ettouati said.

And based on Syrrx’s ability to raise money and snag powerful deals, the odds are stacked in favor of the young company.

“What’s attractive about Syrrx is the fact that we, in a very short period of time, have been able to determine the novel structures of proteins at a rate completely unprecedented,” Ettouati said. “For example, the pharmaceutical industry on average will do three to four novel structures a year. Syrrx, since July of last year, has done over 60 novel crystal structures, which is a very large number. And we go at a rate of 10 to 15 a month, which the pharmaceutical industry would never dream of.

“So, we’ve developed technology that really allows us to do that, and it is extremely important to drug discovery, so the pharmaceutical companies are really interested in having access to that,” he said.

Syrrx recently entered a deal with Peapack, N.J.-based Pharmacia Corp. to determine 3-dimensional shapes of proteins. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 25, 2002.)

Specific financial terms of the Pharmacia deal were not disclosed. Ettouati, though, said the Pharmacia deal is more lucrative than the Roche alliance.

Syrrx, which closed an $18.5 million preferred stock financing in December, also has agreements with Rockville, Md.-based Celera Genomics and Lexington, Mass.-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 27, 2001; Jan. 9, 2001; and Oct. 4, 2000.)

In November, the company acquired validated drug targets and other assets from Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Richmond, Calif., as part of a small-molecule discovery platform.

Syrrx was founded on the science of Pete Schultz, from the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation; Ned David, also from Novartis; and Ray Stevens, from the Scripps Research Institute.

Syrrx has 135 employees. As of Jan. 1, Syrrx had about $70 million in cash.

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