By Nuala Moran

BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON ¿ British Biotech plc said the first of its new class of antibiotics based on metalloenzyme inhibitors will enter clinical studies in 2002, and that it is in talks with pharmaceutical companies to partner the program.

The company made the first public presentations on the antibiotics at the Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago in December.

CEO Elliot Goldstein told BioWorld International, ¿We are in discussions now with potential partners, and our objective is by April to have an R&D collaborative partner on board.¿

British Biotech, based in Oxford, is not short of money, but Goldstein said having a company active in antibiotics as a partner will make the program go faster. ¿We are looking to share the costs, and to retain some commercialization rights. The real value for us is in having a partner who can expedite development.¿

The most advanced compound, BB-3497, due to enter Phase I in the second quarter of 2002, is an inhibitor of peptide deformylase (PDF). In preclinical studies it showed high potency against Gram-positive bacteria, in particular, drug-resistant strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae. The company also has a program around the inhibition of the metalloenzyme LpxC.

¿For us the opportunity is several-fold,¿ Goldstein said. ¿We have about a dozen PDF inhibitors, which we hope will translate into two or three products.¿