By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

On the heels of a zebra fish antisense deal with Discovery Genomics, Sequitur Inc. is adding another stripe to its flag with a multiyear deal with Procter and Gamble Pharmaceuticals Co.

Under the terms of the agreement, Cincinnati-based P&G gets access to Sequitur¿s functional genomics technology, with Sequitur, of Natick, Mass., performing biological screening and providing its antisense compounds and methods to P&G target validation studies.

¿We have generally consistent pricing [for deals],¿ said Tod Woolf, president of Sequitur, declining to discuss financial details. ¿We have a very simple program, compared to other biotech deals.¿

Among those other agreements is the September pact with Minneapolis-based Discovery, focused on screening antisense compounds to find functions in zebra fish genes, more than 90 percent of which have human homologues. Sequitur has developed what it calls OmniScreen one-step target validation and discovery, and GeneLink for pathway elucidation, and has said its antisense methodology can achieve 66 percent to 95 percent inhibition at the RNA level. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 27, 2001.)

In the P&G deal, as in the others, Sequitur will deploy its functional genomics program, with what it described as second-generation antisense compounds, collaborative research and cell transfection optimization. (See BioWorld Today, Aug.13, 1999.)

The firm¿s other clients include Incyte Genomics Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif.; Amgen Inc., of Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Pharmacia Inc., of Kalamazoo, Mich.; GlaxoSmithKline plc, of London; Genome Therapeutics Corp., of Waltham, Mass.; Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.; Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York; Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.; and Rigel Pharmaceutical Inc., of South San Francisco.

As a genomics tool company, Sequitur is not worried about the sorting of firms in the sector about which industry sages have warned.

¿We¿re a private company so we don¿t really have to worry about what the analysts think in that respect,¿ Woolf said. ¿We¿ve doubled our sales every year for five years, and we see expanded growth next year. We¿ve already booked what we did last year.¿ Asked how long the company can operate with its current cash, Woolf said: ¿Indefinitely.¿

Nor is he concerned about lingering skepticism with regard to antisense therapeutics ¿ a skepticism that remains despite the success of such firms as Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Carlsbad, Calif., which signed a $400 million deal with Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co., even after a Phase III failure of Isis¿ antisense drug for Crohn¿s disease. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 23, 2001.)

¿The real ups and downs have occurred in antisense as a drug,¿ Woolf said. ¿As a research tool, it¿s here to stay. We¿ve spent almost all of our time on the use of antisense as a tool. It had great promise, but had technical difficulties, and has come into its own over the past five years.¿

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