Pharmacopeia Inc. entered a new, five-year agreement with N.V. Organon, the pharmaceutical unit of the Netherlands’ Akzo Nobel, thus extending a business relationship that had its beginnings in the mid-1990s.

Terms of the new agreement were not disclosed, but Sue Rodney, manager of investor relations for Pharmacopeia, said the deal ranks among the company’s most significant.

“It is safe to say that this agreement is one of the largest that we’ve signed in our company’s history,” Rodney told BioWorld Today.

Organon, of Oss, the Netherlands, will provide Pharmacopeia with a number of assays using about 20 to 30 of Organon’s biological targets. Pharmacopeia will then apply its sample collection of small molecules and high-throughput and ultra-high-throughput screening capabilities to discover lead compounds, Rodney said.

“Using our medicinal chemistry expertise, we will seek to optimize a select group of [the targets Organon] has,” Rodney said, noting that all work will be completed in Pharmacopeia’s Princeton, N.J., facilities.

Pharmacopeia may receive payments based on preclinical and clinical milestones, and the company is slated to receive royalties on product sales. The new work is scheduled to be under way by the end of the quarter.

The two companies began their relationship in 1996, with Pharmacopeia applying its combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening technologies to certain Organon molecular targets. The relationship has deepened since then, Rodney said.

“It has expanded, it has changed, and with each case, we’ve been mutually successful,” Rodney said. “We’ve achieved on their behalf what they were looking for. The duration of the relationship and each subsequent agreement has broadened in scope.”

Pharmacopeia and Organon are continuing to collaborate on the optimization of Pharmacopeia’s small-molecule antagonists of the IL-8 CXCR2 receptor, which stems from an agreement in January 2000. Interleukin-8 is a chemokine that draws white blood cells to injured sites that are inflamed. Blocking Interleukin-8 may advance the ability to treat inflammatory diseases, Pharmacopeia said.

There also was a 1999 agreement, calling for Pharmacopeia to screen its small-molecule collection against targets chosen by Organon. In July 2000, Pharmacopeia achieved a milestone in that agreement by identifying compounds active against one of the targets.

As for why Pharmacopeia decided to continue the relationship, Rodney said, “They’ve been a terrific partner over the last five years as far as the quality of their science and the compatibility of the research program upon which they’ve embarked.”

Pharmacopeia’s stock (NASDAQ:PCOP) rose 10 cents Wednesday to close at $12.40. Akzo Nobel’s stock (NASDAQ:AKZOY) fell 4 cents to end the day at $42.25.