Syrrx Inc. reeled in its biggest catch through a multiyear research collaboration with Pharmacia Corp.

The privately held drug discovery company joined with Pharmacia to use Syrrx’s high-throughput, automated structural proteomics technology platform to determine 3-dimensional shapes of proteins, many of which will become the targets of future Pharmacia drugs to treat cancer, inflammation and infectious diseases.

“This deal is larger than any of the other deals that we’ve done,” Syrxx co-founder and director of business development Nathaniel David said. “It is across potentially a vast number of divergent protein targets over a period of years. It’s the largest structural proteomics deal around.”

The deal also includes an option down the road to install the Syrrx gene-to-structure technology platform internally at Pharmacia. The platform bypasses prior bottlenecks in the classical protein structure determination process through a streamlined, factory-like environment, determining protein structures more reliably and economically than previously thought possible, Syrrx said.

“We have not only this factory operating every day, producing 10 to 15 structures per month,” David said. “But we also have a significant patent estate around these, and Pharmacia said, Whoa, I think we need this.’

“[Pharmacia] recognized the superiority of this approach.”

The deal also gives Pharmacia access to a broad Syrrx patent on the volume of the drop in which the crystallization occurs.

“Essentially, everything between 1 nanoliter and 1,000 nanoliters belongs to us,” David said. “You can use 50 to 100 times less protein, and what this means is that you have this very small amount of protein when you do the experiment, and that small refinement back-propagates through our entire factory and makes everything very streamlined and highly scalable.”

Financial terms of the collaboration include a technology access fee, a potential equity investment in Syrrx, R&D funding and success payments by Peapack, N.J.-based Pharmacia. Specific financial numbers and payment schedules were not disclosed.

In terms of private financings, the San Diego-based company has raised $98.5 million over the past two years.

Syrrx in December reported a collaboration with Rockville, Md.-based Celera Genomics, in which the companies will work to discover small-molecule drugs. In a November deal, Syrrx acquired validated drug targets and additional assets from Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Richmond, Calif., as part of a small-molecule discovery program. The company also is involved with the San Diego-based Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in a five-year technology development agreement, and with Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Lexington, Mass., in a three-year antibiotic discovery alliance. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 27, 2001.)

“The Celera [deal] is also tiered, but is far smaller in terms of the agreement that we signed today,” David said. “It has the potential to become very large. And the Cubist one is a very interesting deal, but it is not of the same financial magnitude in the sense in that we actually co-discover drugs and emerge from it with some of our own drug development programs.”

Syrrx also features a number of its own drug development programs, aimed at treating cancer, inflammation and anti-infective diseases. The company has five programs ongoing, with plans to mount more in the next two years. Syrrx received its first drug discovery milestone from Cubist at the end of December.

“While we are the company with the most advanced platform for doing the crystal structure work, we are a drug discovery company,” David said. “The structures are a means to an end.”