BORNHEIM, Germany ¿ The German companies MelTec GmbH and Evotec OAI formed a joint venture company to find and develop drugs for treating certain autoimmune diseases and cancer. They also will collaborate on drug discovery services.
The joint venture company aims at driving potential drugs for treatment of psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune hepatitis and prostate cancer rapidly into research and preclinical processes, MelTec CEO Walter Schubert told BioWorld International.
MelTec, of Magdeburg, has developed a platform for whole-cell protein fingerprinting (WCPF). It is expected to significantly speed up research and preclinical stages of drug development, Schubert said.
WCPF makes protein patterns inside cells and on cell surfaces visible. Cellular proteins interacting with other proteins do major parts of the work inside a cell ¿ or make trouble in the case of disease.
¿We compare how protein patterns differ for healthy vs. pathologic cells,¿ said Schubert.
¿Our scanning machines enable detection of hundreds of different proteins in up to 40,000 single cells at once,¿ he said. ¿We can see when networks of proteins are stepping out of line in a pathologic cell.¿
Such proteins are potential targets for drugs. Bound to a potential drug, a protein may alter its characteristics in interaction with other proteins, thus influencing complete networks of proteins interfering with each other.
MelTec is contributing its WCPF platform for target identification and validation to the joint venture.
Evotec, of Hamburg, is bringing chemical compounds for drug discovery synthesized by high-throughput parallel synthesis, and will check drug target interactions using its proprietary assay systems and its ultra-high-throughput screening platform, EVOscreen, Evotec spokeswoman Anne Hennecke told BioWorld International. ¿Hits will then be further examined for improved drug qualities in focused screens using Evotec OAI¿s biology and chemistry expertise,¿ she said.
Evotec and MelTec plan to jointly run tests on the administration, distribution, metabolism, excretion and toxicity (ADMET) of drug candidates in order to prioritize the hits or lead compounds prior to clinical trials.
¿The joint venture for MelTec is a chance to drive proprietary drug projects toward clinical development, thus maturing them for outlicensing rapidly,¿ said Schubert.
Evotec and MelTec jointly founded the venture and will equally share the equity before any financing.
¿For venture capitalists there aren¿t any risks on technology to develop,¿ Hennecke said, adding, ¿For us there¿s no financial risk. This is a win-win-win situation.¿
Negotiations on venture capital funding are at an advanced stage, Schubert said. Details were not disclosed.
The other joint project, the drug discovery service collaboration, is expected to substantially shorten the overall time frame of the drug development process and maximize the probability of clinical success, the companies said. It will provide to pharmaceutical companies criteria needed for informed decisions in the drug discovery process, Schubert explained.
¿Among customer¿s molecules we¿ll find the ones interacting with the cellular protein network. If a drug deletes a pathologic protein network in a cell, we know the drug works,¿ Schubert said. But working is not enough. It also must not give rise to new protein networks, which Schubert said is the equivalent of side effects on a molecular level.
In the service collaboration, MelTec¿s proteomics platform will be integrated into Evotec¿s offerings of drug discovery services, Hennecke said. In addition, Evotec and MelTec will jointly develop novel ADMET assays examining side effect profiles and toxicity of drug candidates in model systems and human tissue.
¿We want to be making good predictions on ADMET at a very early stage of research,¿ Hennecke said, adding that Evotec has committed to pay research fees of up to EUR5 million over two years and downstream royalties to MelTec on Evotec ADMET service offerings.
For Evotec the drug discovery service collaboration is another brick in its strategy of becoming a one-stop shop for services improving the drug discovery process, Hennecke said.
For MelTec, which raised a DM38 million (US$16 million) seed financing last year, the Evotec projects are its first collaborations. Independent from the collaborations MelTec has its own research and development in autoimmune diseases, cancer and arteriosclerosis. It has already identified new targets and lead compounds in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and cancer, the company said.