By Randall Osborne

West Coast Editor

A year after Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. bought Cambridge Discovery Chemistry Inc. to supplement its medicinal chemistry team, Signature BioScience Inc. has taken over CDC from Millennium as a way of revving the development of Signature¿s WaveScreen microwave spectrometry platform.

¿If all you have is chemistry, that¿s not good enough,¿ said Mark McDade, CEO of Hayward, Calif.-based Signature.

The deal includes a two-year collaboration between Signature and Millennium, of Cambridge, Mass., but financial details were not disclosed. Earlier this month, Signature raised $43 million in a self-managed private placement, and pledged an acquisition shortly. CDC is that deal, McDade said, and an instrumentation partnership also is due soon, along with a couple of biotechnology collaborations. (See BioWorld Today, July 10, 2001.)

McDade pointed to such firms as Pharmacopeia Inc., of Princeton, N.J., which said last week it was ¿engaged in a review of strategic alternatives to its current drug discovery business model¿ to seek more drug targets.

¿Pharmacopeia is waving the white flag, saying, Our revenues are coming down,¿¿ McDade said. ¿Frankly, there are quite a number of companies out there that are waving that flag.¿

Last summer, Millennium bought CDC Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Oxford, UK-based Oxford Molecular Group plc, for about $52 million, saying that CDC¿s 86 chemists would supplement Millennium¿s efforts. (See BioWorld Today, July 7, 2000.)

CDC Ltd., renamed as Millennium Pharmaceuticals Ltd., operates in the UK as a wholly owned subsidiary of Millennium, and CDC Inc. was the U.S. affiliate in Richmond, Calif., with ¿about two dozen¿ chemists, said McDade.

He added with a laugh that Signature¿s paying price for CDC Inc. was ¿less than $52 million,¿ but Millennium has asked that the cost not be disclosed.

Signature¿s WaveScreen uses microwave spectrometry ¿ called multipole coupling ¿ to determine ¿signatures¿ of proteins or of their interactions with small molecules. In the CDC deal, Signature gets not only a laboratory with a team skilled in synthesis, chemistry and lead optimization, but corporate partners as well.

¿The only one we can disclose is Millennium, but there are a total of four,¿ McDade said. WaveScreen ¿should be operational, in terms of initial corporate partnerships, by January of next year,¿ McDade told BioWorld Today.

The buyout of CDC was most important for powering WaveScreen development ¿in terms of offering targeted library generation, but we¿re looking at beefing up our biology area,¿ through adding staff and making deals, he added.

Having cash and a bigger picture in mind allows Signature to ¿acquire some of these previously lower-value pieces¿ such as CDC, a contract chemical company, and generate its own drug targets, McDade said.

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