By Matthew Willett

Alchemia Pty Ltd. produces carbohydrates on a contract basis and offers combinatorial chemistry services that enable carbohydrate-based molecule synthesis, but it's the work developing carbohydrate-based therapeutics that the company will focus on in the next year.

Alchemia, of Brisbane, Australia, last week completed an $8.2 million private financing that included Australian firms Start-up Australia, of Sydney; Medica Holdings, of Brisbane; AMWIN, of Sydney; Biotech Capital; and Rothschild Bioscience Australia, of Melbourne. Alchemia has raised $12.4 million to date.

And concurrent to the financing, Alchemia said that Paul Goddard will act as the company's chairman. Goddard is the former president and CEO of Elan Pharmaceuticals, the pharmaceutical arm of Elan Corp. plc, of Dublin, Ireland.

Further, he said, Alchemia will pursue an expansion in its U.S. presence. Its stateside headquarters in Redwood City, Calif., now has three employees, and its facility in Brisbane has expanded from 25 employees to 48.

Kris Dyszynski, privately held Alchemia's vice president of business development, said the company has technology that allows it to use sugars as molecular frameworks, a sugar scaffold, he said, on which drugs can be built.

"Because carbohydrates can be linked together in large numbers and orientations and chemical bonds, we can access areas of 3-dimensional space in producing carbohydrate-based libraries so that unique drug compounds can be developed," Dyszynski said.

"A lot of current drugs and drug candidates are relatively flat, or 2-dimensional," Dyszynski told BioWorld Today. "Because of the 3-dimensional nature of sugar scaffolds, we can add functional groups at various positions on the sugar molecule and make it more 3-dimensional in nature. Carbohydrates have the potential to become a new class of drugs."

Founded in 1995, the company just entered a research and manufacturing alliance with Dow Chemical Co., of Midland, Mich. That multiyear alliance calls for large-scale synthesis of carbohydrates, and included an up-front payment, milestones and process improvement payments.

The potential areas of therapeutic benefit for these medicines are varied. "We can add functional groups to sugar molecules in any different position and in any order that we choose," he said.

And the technology lends itself to other fields such as drug delivery vectors using novel sugar-lipid-drug conjugates and ionic systems, and proteomics-inspired pharmaceutical discovery. In 2001, he said, the company plans to focus on developing drug leads.

"We'll be developing drug leads ourselves, potentially, through Phase II clinical trials," he said. "Our ultimate goal is to find marketing partners once we've demonstrated benefit."

Alchemia currently is evaluating one trisaccharide, Xenocarb, to determine its ability to provide benefit in preventing rejection in xenograft transplant and as a prophylactic and therapeutic against C. difficile-associated disease, a major cause of pseudo membranous colitis and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Its research and development efforts also include investigation into antibacterial agents that will target the Mur pathway of bacterial peptideoglycan synthesis. n

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