By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

WASHINGTON ¿ The successful completion of their first collaboration led Discovery Partners International Inc. (DPI) and Maxia Pharmaceuticals Inc. to enter a second deal.

Back in November, the two San Diego-based companies signed a deal under which DPI would design and synthesize Maxia compounds, and already the work has increased Maxia¿s ability to correlate structure with in vivo efficacy of agonists specific to one of Maxia¿s nuclear receptor targets.

¿There was a significant increase in the ability of the compound to correlate structure with in vivo efficacy,¿ Amy Caterina, DPI¿s director of investor relations, told BioWorld Today. ¿It was greater than a 10-fold increase and this is obviously a significant event for them.¿

Caterina would not discuss financial terms of the agreement short of referring to a press release that said the deal includes fees and milestone payments, while Maxia retains exclusive rights to develop and commercialize all compounds resulting from the collaboration.

¿I think the bottom line is that we were able to significantly improve the product and our client was able to deliver the results to its corporate development partner,¿ Caterina said.

The goal of the deal was for DPI to improve a drug candidate target for one of Maxia¿s partners. Caterina would not release the type of target or the name of Maxia¿s partner.

The results were achieved through the deal in which screening of library compounds delivered by DPI combined with rapid synthesis and testing of modeled compounds by Maxia facilitated an optimal integration of chemistry, computational chemistry and biology, DPI said in a prepared statement.

The new project focuses on a new class of biological targets to which Maxia has exclusive rights to develop and commercialize all the compounds resulting from the deal.

Maxia¿s work focuses on novel genomic modulators that target nuclear receptors and signal transduction pathways. The company has programs in Type II diabetes, cancer and precancerous conditions, inflammatory diseases and heart disease.

DPI, meanwhile, sells services and tools to accelerate the drug discovery and development processes. Specifically, the company offers assay development, high-throughput screening, library design and library synthesis for lead identification and optimization.

Caterina said the Maxia deal proves that DPI has the ability to complete a fully integrated drug discovery effort, or a technology continuum, that includes biology, chemistry and informatics. ¿Other clients we have may want us to do the chemistry component or the informatics or the biology, but we¿ve never had a client ask us to do all three of those things,¿ she said. ¿And so this is our future ¿ we have had a successful trial run with Maxia to get this project up and running.¿

DPI was founded in 1995 as IRORI, and in 1998 changed its name. In the last year or so the company has expanded its technology by acquiring several companies to include Systems Integration Drug Discovery Company Inc. (SIDDCO), a privately held Tucson, Ariz.-based firm that provided chemistry services and compound libraries to biopharmaceutical and pharmaceutical companies. In 2000, DPI acquired Axys Advanced Technologies Inc., of South San Francisco; Discovery Technologies Ltd., of Switzerland; and Structural Proteomics, of San Diego. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 27, 2000; May 11, 2000; and April 13, 2000.)

Axys Advanced Technologies Inc. was owned by Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc., which was recently purchased by Celera Genomics Group, of Rockville, Md. Caterina said Axys Pharmaceuticals currently owns about 30 percent of DPI, and once the transaction with Celera is complete, Celera will be the major shareholder of DPI.

DPI raised $90 million when it sold 5 million shares of common stock at $18 per share in its initial public offering a year ago. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 1, 2000.)

DPI¿s stock (NASDAQ:DPII) closed unchanged Thursday at $5.75.

Privately held Maxia was formed in 1995 and focuses on treatment of Type II diabetes/dyslipidemia, cervical dysplasia and cancer. The company also has leads for treatment of certain inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases. Maxia has multiyear collaborations to discover and develop insulin sensitizers for the treatment of Type II diabetes and related metabolic disorders with San Diego-based The R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute (PRI) and Raritan, N.J.-based Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc., both Johnson & Johnson companies. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 4, 2001.)

Maxia officials could not be reached for comment.

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