Washington Editor

Gemin X Biotechnologies Inc. will provide Tranzyme Inc. with a gene to validate, in a collaboration deal that both companies hope will result in new drugs for the treatment of neurological disorders.

Officials at both companies characterized the deal as “equal,” meaning the companies are putting up their own technologies and combining resources.

If a drug results from the work, Vipin Garg, CEO of Birmingham, Ala.-based Tranzyme, told BioWorld Today that the companies will sit down and negotiate further terms. When that might occur is not known at this time, but the companies plan to move quickly, Garg said.

In this discovery phase, Tranzyme will use its gene expression platform, called TExT, to validate privately held Gemin X’s gene (a domain of the Bax gene), which has functions in apoptosis and is expected to have utility in treating conditions like stroke, head trauma and Alzheimer’s disease. The TExT gene expression technology includes TranzVector, for gene transfer, and TranzAssay, for high-throughput screening and drug discovery technology.

Pierre Beauparlant, director of scientific development for Montreal-based Gemin X, said the company was attracted to Tranzyme because it has the technology and expertise to validate targets in certain diseases, particularly in neuroscience diseases, such as brain damage that results from stroke.

“Gemin X is strong in discovering small molecules that can become drugs, and small molecules that modulate apoptosis,” Beauparlant told BioWorld Today. “However, our expertise has been cancer, and it is still our main focus. We wanted to see if one of our targets is indeed useful for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and by entering this collaboration, we are able to have this evaluation done by a group that has expertise and technology. Once the validation is done, we’ll be able, with our chemistry group in-house, to develop drugs based on the knowledge we have of this target.”

For Tranzyme, the deal means something different.

“This really establishes the model for our partnerships going forward whereby we essentially bring biology to chemistry companies either they are chemical genomics companies that need biological targets to work with, or they are companies that have chemistry capabilities in terms of drug discovery,” Garg said. “We believe that biology is going to be more critical in the post-genomics drug discovery scenario because you are going to have lots of targets and you are going to have to validate those targets.”

Garg described the timeline for the collaboration as very aggressive. “We already know that this target is important in cancer and we are going to take that knowledge and information about the gene and put the gene into multiple other settings and ask how important it is in those settings. We think by the end of this year we’ll have pretty much validated the gene, and that really is the power of the technology.”

The deal with Gemin X marks the eighth such agreement that Tranzyme has entered since its TExT technology was introduced in August. One deal is with NeoGenesis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., an agreement that calls for Tranzyme’s protein expression technology to be combined with NeoGenesis’ chemical genomics platform. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 29, 2001.)

Also, privately held Tranzyme has been in the early stages of a research and development agreement with Biogen Inc., also of Cambridge, in a program that relates to normal gene function discovery. Garg wouldn’t discuss details of the agreement at this time.

Gemin X also has other agreements, including a research collaboration with Worchester, Mass.-based Phytera Inc. to find treatments for cancer and other diseases. (See BioWorld Today, May 17, 2001.)