Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. entered a potential $20 million-plus deal with Amgen Inc. to discover small-molecule drugs based on genomics targets.

San Diego-based Acadia established the collaboration with Amgen to find drugs using Acadia’s chemical-genomics platform. Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen is the biotech industry’s biggest player, and is getting even bigger through its $16 billion purchase of Immunex Corp., of Seattle, in a deal announced Dec. 17.

“We think Amgen is a top-notch company,” said Douglas Richards, Acadia’s vice president of business development. “We’re very gratified that the world’s premier biotech company has recognized Acadia’s highly productive discovery platform, and our expertise as well.”

The companies will apply privately held Acadia’s discovery platform to identify small-molecule leads for up to 12 genomics targets, including both orphan and known drug targets.

“We have a technology that can very rapidly and efficiently link chemistries to genomic targets,” Richards said. “Our philosophy of chemical genomics is, Let’s not spend a lot of time on the front end figuring out which target to go after let’s go after all of them. Then, once we find chemistries, they can be used as drug leads.’ And we’ve been very productive in doing this.”

These chemical leads will then be used to explore the therapeutic potential of the targets and as starting points for potential collaborative discovery and development programs.

“We’ve been doing drug discovery since 1997, and we now have 16 drug programs that have come from our platform,” Richards said. “In fact, in three of these, we’re doing studies to advance them to human trials. They’re approaching the clinic.”

Amgen gains the right to develop and commercialize drugs directed at each of the genomic targets. Acadia will receive research funding and milestones upon the achievement of specified research and clinical events. It said it would receive at least $20 million if a single product is approved. Acadia is eligible as well for royalties on future product sales.

“[Amgen is] clearly the No. 1 biotechnology company in the world; they have a lot of expertise,” Richards said. “They have a real interest in small-molecule drug discovery, which is what our expertise is. They have an interest getting in small molecules, and they’re interested in integrating Acadia’s drug discovery platform into their small-molecule discovery efforts.”

The targets and disease areas of focus for the collaboration were not disclosed.

“We’ve been so productive, but we don’t have the resources as a small company to pursue everything this platform is generating,” Richards said. “So we really need to partner with top companies like Amgen.”

Acadia recently said it discovered compounds with specificity in activation of a wide range of G protein-coupled receptors. One GPCR, discovered as part of a collaboration with Allergan Inc., of Irvine, Calif., led to the nomination of a drug candidate as an oral treatment for clinical pain, a discovery that came about as part of their functional genomics collaboration. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 11, 2001.)

“These types of collaborations will all leverage our platform and will all attempt to rapidly link chemistry to genomics targets,” Richards said. “In addition to these types of collaborations, we have our own programs that are pretty exciting, and we expect to be partnering compounds at some point. This is a drug discovery collaboration, but we’ve already discovered lead compounds that are moving forward, and we can partner those programs as well.”

Amgen also has been busy with recent dealings.

In addition to the deal with Acadia, Amgen also agreed last week to expand its drug discovery partnership with Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Carlsbad, Calif. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 4, 2002.)