Washington Editor

Ambit BioSciences Corp. entered a research collaboration agreement with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP to identify and isolate protein targets of small molecules for central nervous system diseases.

While David Lockhart, Ambit’s president, chief scientific officer and co-founder, would not discuss the financial arrangements, he did say the deal provides Ambit with exposure and access to interesting molecules.

Ambit, a private company based in San Diego, was founded in June 2000 based on science at Yale University from chemistry professor David Austin. The company’s proprietary technology is a chemistry-directed discovery system called ProteomeScan.

“Our approach is unique because we go in the opposite direction of most people,” Lockhart told BioWorld Today. “Usually you find targets based on genomics, proteomics, biochemistry all the usual approaches to try to find the genes and proteins that are important for a phenotype. Then you set up a screen and you screen lots of small molecules that may interact with that protein. We go the other way. We use those molecules in our technology to find protein targets.”

ProteomeScan, Ambit’s high-throughput technology, enables the parallel interrogation of large collections of human proteins for the discovery of those that bind to biologically active molecules, the company said in a prepared statement.

Lockhart said AstraZeneca, of London, will supply Ambit with a small number of targets.

AstraZeneca has a healthy portfolio that includes medicines for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, central nervous system diseases, gastrointestinal conditions, infection, pain control and respiratory conditions. Among AstraZeneca’s products are Casodex and Arimidex, both for cancer; Nexium for gastrointestinal disease; Symbicort for asthma; Atacand for hypertension; Zomig for migraines; and Seroquel for schizophrenia.

Ambit, which opened its doors with $2 million in seed money, raised $10 million in a Series B round of financing late last year. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 8, 2001.)

And a few weeks later, the company said it formed a multiyear collaboration with Medarex Inc., of Princeton, N.J., that is set use Medarex’s UltiMAb Human Antibody Development System in conjunction with ProteomeScan to develop and commercialize monoclonal antibody therapeutic products. The companies will share equally the costs and revenues of any product. Medarex made a $1 million equity investment in Ambit associated with the collaboration.

Lockhart said Ambit also is working on an “unannounced” deal with another biotechnology company, and currently is discussing future agreements with other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.