By Brady Huggett
Syrrx Inc., signing its first deal, formed an anti-infective drug discovery collaboration with Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc.
The joint effort between San Diego-based Syrrx and Cambridge, Mass.-based Cubist will use both companies¿ technologies for high-throughput characterization of anti-infective drug targets and rational drug design. The companies plan to discover classes of antibiotics to treat infectious diseases.
Syrrx CEO Wendell Wierenga said, besides having the ¿downstream, important ingredients¿ for this line of work, Cubist has a seductive technology.
¿We are particularly enamored with their ability to find novel essential genes for targets for antibiotics,¿ he said. ¿They have a good platform to do that.¿
¿It is a true alliance,¿ said Jennifer LaVin, senior director, corporate communications, at Cubist. ¿The targets that are being contributed to the alliance have come from Cubist research. It combines our targets and their structural technology.¿
Syrrx will use its technology platform to determine the 3-dimensional structure of the supplied targets and take the targets ¿all the way to lead identification,¿ Wierenga said. Once structures are determined, targets will enter a structure-based, drug-design screening phase.
LaVin told BioWorld Today a joint committee will choose which targets are ¿druggable¿ and therefore should move to an investigational new drug application. The agreement stipulates either company, under certain conditions, will handle each drug candidate¿s development. Although neither side would discuss financial specifics, LaVin said the deal is different from others Cubist has done.
¿It¿s pretty unique in that we made a modest equity investment in the company,¿ she said. ¿There is no ongoing R&D funding. The development is all success-driven milestones.¿
Wierenga, speaking from the BIO 2001 conference in San Diego, said the deal was unique for Syrrx, as well: It¿s their virgin alliance.
¿This is Syrrx¿s first deal,¿ he said. ¿We¿ve supported ourselves up to this point. We¿ve raised $80 million in venture capital. The equity investment [from Cubist] is a way of recognizing what technology we are bringing to the table. This is a way to do that and do it in an off-balance-sheet way. And obviously they think the investment will be worthwhile to them.¿
The work will largely focus on bacteria and fungi. Since the targets being supplied are new, LaVin said, the idea is that any drug derived will work in a way ¿that bacteria and fungi haven¿t seen before and won¿t be resistant to.¿
Cubist has its lead product, Cidecin, in Phase III trials for complicated skin and soft-tissue infections. Its first trial was completed in April and a second study in that indication is ongoing. It has a Phase III trial for community-acquired pneumonia, LaVin said, and hopes to use all the data in a new drug application with the FDA, expected to be filed in mid-2002. With all going well, that could mean a launch in the first half of 2003, she said. (See BioWorld Today, March 15, 2001.)
As a company, Cubist wants to fill in the space behind Cidecin.
¿Part of the strategy at Cubist is to fortify our product pipeline behind Cidecin,¿ LaVin said. ¿It¿s been our lead product for some time now. This is a further enhancement of our research and discovery capabilities through which we hope to accelerate our drug discovery engine.¿
Wierenga said he likes the deal because it gives Syrrx more control than it might have found with a pharmaceutical giant.
¿In some deals with big pharma, you do your thing and they take it out of your hands from there,¿ he said. ¿This is a collaborative endeavor, done in a partnership mode.¿
Cubist¿s stock (NASDAQ:CBST) fell 52 cents Wednesday to close at $33.70.