By Karen Young

Xenon Genetics Inc. acquired QuantaNova Canada Ltd.¿s lipid metabolism drug discovery program to augment its work in discovery of drug targets.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Xenon Genetics acquired all assets of the company related to the lipid metabolism drug discovery program, which will be used in developing novel therapeutics for diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although it was a cash transaction, said Xenon Genetics President and CEO Frank Holler.

QuantaNova Canada is a subsidiary of Scotia Holdings plc, of Stirling, UK, which went into receivership early this year after its lead product, the photodynamic therapy Foscan for head and neck cancer, was not endorsed by the FDA and the European drug regulators.

QuantaNova Canada, of Kentville, Nova Scotia, previously was known as Efamol Research Inc., or Scotia Pharmaceuticals Ltd., and has operated since 1983. It has a nutritional business and developed its lipid metabolism drug discovery program. It has a 52,000-square-foot facility in Kentville housing lab and office space, which is being sold to another company, Holler said. One employee, Michael Winter, the former president of QuantaNova, joined Xenon as senior director of metabolic diseases.

What Xenon will get in the deal is an intellectual property portfolio of novel genes representing potential new drug targets, proprietary drug screening and diagnostic assays, as well as biological materials, radiochemicals and a lipid reference library.

¿Through the research that we were doing, we had gained an understanding of certain disease pathways, and the intellectual property and genes we¿re acquiring are genes and protein products which regulate intermediary steps in pathways that were of interest to us,¿ Holler said.

¿The acquisition speaks to part of our strategic approach, which is that while we have strong research programs, we are also looking to augment those programs through strategic acquisitions,¿ Holler said. ¿This was certainly strategic for us, and it is in a disease area that builds on our existing expertise.¿

Holler said that Xenon¿s total portfolio now includes 11 biologically validated drug targets.

¿We¿re moving those programs up the value chain and into the compound discovery phase,¿ he said, noting that the company has two compounds in screening and will have a third in screening before year¿s end.

In early September, Xenon reported that its research team and researchers from Pfizer Inc., of New York, up-regulated the gene (ABCA1) responsible for regulating levels of HDL cholesterol in vivo. The company said that this finding provides proof of principle that drugs that increase ABCA1 activity in humans may raise HDL-cholesterol levels.

The company in late September said it moved into the compound discovery phase with triglycerides when it began high-throughput screening using a novel, genetically derived drug target and screening assay it developed. The goal of the program is to identify and develop small-molecule compounds to treat elevated triglycerides.

Holler said he expects ¿a number of¿ the company¿s programs to move into screening next year.