BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON Ionix Pharmaceuticals Ltd., a specialist in the discovery of analgesic drugs, signed an agreement with Xenome Ltd. to screen Xenome’s libraries of toxin peptides against two of Ionix’s ion channel targets.

Brisbane, Australia-based Xenome’s synthesized toxin peptides are based on native toxin structures isolated from the venom of a number of Australian animals.

Andrew Sandham, president and CEO of Ionix, told BioWorld International, “Venomous toxins are very good at shutting down physiological functions, and many are potent blockers of ion channels. However, they tend to have broad-spectrum effects and what we are looking for is a high degree of selectivity.”

Ionix, based in Cambridge, has discovered a number of ion channel targets that are involved in the perception and signaling of pain in the peripheral nervous system. The collaboration will search for selective antagonists of a sodium channel target that Ionix said could be used to treat chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain. The nature of the second target was not disclosed.

The companies will work together on the development and commercialization of drug candidates from the collaboration. This will involve co-investment to proof of concept, after which any compounds will be partnered.

Last month Ionix announced a similar collaboration with the drug discovery services company Evotec OAI AG, of Hamburg, Germany, centered on the same sodium channel target.

Ionix was founded in July 2001 around the research of John Wood, a specialist in the peripheral nervous system at University College London. The company raised £8 million in its first funding round and has a four-year agreement that gives it rights to further ion channel targets discovered at UCL.