BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - Meristem Therapeutics, a Clermont-Ferrand-based company specialized in the production of recombinant proteins and active substances from plants, entered into an alliance with Quintiles Inc. to provide technical support services to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies that are developing therapeutic proteins.

Drawing on Meristem's plant-engineering know-how and Quintiles' clinical development expertise, the deal will enable the partners to offer their respective customers a full range of technical services, ranging from the supply of the first milligrams of proteins in the laboratory to the production of active principles in industrial quantities and the filing of the resulting drugs for regulatory approval at a world level. Their product offer is particularly targeted at companies constrained by limited capacity in the production of therapeutic recombinant proteins, giving them the possibility of reducing both the time and cost of drug development.

Quintiles Inc. is the product division of Quintiles Transnational Corp., of Research Triangle Park, N.C., the world's leading contract research organization for the conduct of preclinical and clinical trials. To cement its alliance with Meristem, Quintiles' venture capital arm, PharmaBio Development, acquired an equity stake in the company, the size of which was not revealed. But BioWorld International was told by Meristem's marketing and communications manager, Emmanuel Boures, that it represented a "significant" injection of funds for the French company.

He also explained that no structure was being put in place to give effect to this alliance and that neither company was bound by reciprocal commitments for promoting the other's services to its own customers. Instead, they would propose global product offers to interested third parties on a case-by-case basis.

In the view of the managing director of Quintiles France, Michel Abiteboul, there is a "real synergy" between Meristem's technology, which is of benefit to "the whole biotechnology industry," and the services provided by Quintiles. This alliance was designed to help Quintiles achieve its ambition of "becoming a leading strategic partner in the biopharmaceuticals sector," he said.

Meristem Therapeutics operates a manufacturing facility for the cultivation of genetically modified plants and the extraction and purification of large quantities of complex proteins with therapeutic applications at low cost and to GMP standards. Last September it announced the completion of a successful Phase I trial of a therapeutic agent for the treatment of cystic fibrosis, which was the first drug developed from plant engineering in Europe to have been taken into clinical trials.

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