By Nuala Moran

BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON ¿ Amedis Pharmaceuticals Ltd. raised #4 million (US$5.64 million) in its first funding round to commercialize software for improving the selection and validation of drug candidates by predicting characteristics such as toxicity, carcinogenic potential or oral bioavailability in advance of any laboratory tests.

CEO Bob Scoffin told BioWorld International, ¿Often people will have a rack of 100 molecules, which all look equally good in terms of efficacy. Using our software they will be able to find the optimal candidate in terms of which will make the best drug, before doing any wet tests.¿

The system is designed to test a number of characteristics such as toxicity and bioavailability, producing a predicted value for each property.

¿For example, the model will say if a particular molecule is likely to be orally bioavailable,¿ he said. ¿Or if the result is not good, it will say why not, providing development chemists and pharmacologists with information to refine the molecule.¿

Amedis has spent the past two years developing its system, automatically scanning drug molecule structures looking for common features. This has enabled the company to build up a profile of features that occur frequently, and thus ascribe differences in behavior to particular features.

¿This approach has been taken before, but our method of generating the database of descriptions is proprietary,¿ said Scoffin.

The description of each molecule is then run through mathematical models covering a range of pharmacological and toxicological properties, producing a predicated value for each property.

¿We believe our approach can both improve the success rate [in drug development] and the speed to market,¿ Scoffin said.

The Amedis system initially is focused on small molecules, but the method could be applied to protein drugs.

The #4 million funding will allow Amedis, based in Royston, Hertfordshire, to move forward to a commercial release of the software. It will also use the technology to develop its own in-house portfolio.

¿We will spend #2 million in developing the software side, which should be cash generative in two years,¿ Scoffin said. ¿We will invest the other #2 million in developing the chemistry side to build our own portfolio.¿

Scoffin said Amedis¿ technology will provide an edge in three areas: improving existing drugs, or rescuing ones that have failed in clinical development; devising new delivery mechanisms for existing drugs by tuning properties such as solubility or oral bioavailability; and developing new molecules against existing biological targets.

¿We don¿t have any proprietary biology but there are enough targets out there without good chemical bullets to fire against them.¿

Amedis was formed in April 2000 with seed funding from Merlin Biosciences and the founders.

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