Paradigm Genetics Inc. entered a collaboration with VDDI Pharmaceuticals on an antibiotic program to treat anthrax and other infections, the second collaboration for Paradigm since it launched its human health division in January.

Paradigm, of Research Triangle Park, N.C., will take compounds provided by VDDI and, using its MetaVantage metabolomics technology, prioritize them and determine which ones should be further developed, Jin Sun Kim, vice president of health care for Paradigm, told BioWorld Today.

The companies will be working to develop an antimicrobial candidate, and the findings will be used for VDDI’s anthrax program.

Separately Tuesday, Paradigm said after the market closed that CEO and President John Ryals was “terminated.” Ryals has been president and CEO since founding the company in 1997. Paradigm said John Hamer, its chief scientific officer, was appointed interim CEO and president while a replacement is sought.

Kim, reached later, said, “It’s not unusual for companies to go through a transition where they go from being a start-up company to a more mature organization requiring different management skills.” Details were not disclosed.

In the VDDI deal, although specific terms were not disclosed, the collaboration would allow Paradigm to pursue co-development of certain compounds for antibiotic and antifungal applications in human health and agrochemical applications.

VDDI will support Paradigm’s research and development efforts, in addition to paying royalties on any products. Paradigm also will have the opportunity to make an undisclosed equity investment in VDDI.

The first phase of the multiphase collaboration should last six to nine months, Kim said. Depending on how the first phase goes, the companies will decide how to proceed.

“What we believe is that we have a profound technology,” Kim said, noting that VDDI expects to have many uses for MetaVantage.

MetaVantage elucidates the biochemical profile of a cell, tissue or fluid and integrates the information with data from other genomic analyses using its informatics system.

The first phase of the collaboration with Brentwood, Tenn.-based VDDI will be to study the compounds for potential toxicity. While Kim could not give the exact number of compounds involved, she said it is a “large amount.”

VDDI acquired rights to a new class of antimicrobial compounds discovered at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The compounds target the bacterial enzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide synthetase, and VDDI is looking to develop inhibitors against the bacterial NADs. The company said the inhibitors could be useful in fighting resistant microbial pathogens, such as Gram-positive infections, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus and systemic fungal infections.

VDDI President and CEO Stephen Porter said his company chose Paradigm Genetics because of the MetaVantage technology’s ability to predict toxicology critical when you’re working on a drug to fight anthrax.

Porter is waiting to receive a multiyear contract totaling $23 million from the Department of Defense to do just that. He expects to get the funding next month.

“We think this is going to lower our risk,” Porter said, noting that using MetaVantage would add more confidence going into animal and human trials with a drug that has the cleanest metabolic and toxicologic profile possible.

Although Porter said that recent events provide a mandate to find a drug to combat anthrax as soon as possible, his company began work on such a drug before Sept. 11. The early work was funded by $6 million that the university got from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Paradigm said it could be a fairly quick process to develop a drug to address the potential $650 million market.

“The time to get a product to the market would be very short,” Kim said.

This is Paradigm’s second collaboration to be announced since its additional focus on human health was unveiled in January.

“We really need to be in the drug discovery effort ourselves, and that’s our long-term goal,” Kim said. “We are committed to building a pipeline of proprietary products, and we’re aggressively working on that as we speak.”

In the short term, Paradigm will be looking to collaborate with more companies that are interested in using the MetaVantage technology, she said. Paradigm and Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., signed a multiyear collaborative research agreement to apply metabolomics to drug discovery and development. Paradigm and Duke will research multiple disease areas to identify and validate novel drug targets for drug discovery, as well as discover new biomarkers for use in predictive medicine. Cardiovascular disease will be the first project of the collaboration.

Paradigm’s stock (NASDAQ:PDGM) gained 5 cents Tuesday to close at $1.70.

VDDI’s business is in-licensing and developing drugs for infectious disease, cancer and cardiovascular disease that have the potential for fast-track approval. VDDI acquires rights to compounds from private and public partners and plans to develop them through Phase II before licensing them out.

“My business mantra is, Narrow indication, broad application,’” Porter said.