BioWorld International Correspondent

SYDNEY, Australia - Brisbane-based Medica Ltd. is making patent applications for two groups of kinase blockers in what the company says is a major advance in the area of manipulating the intercellular system of signaling by kinase molecules.

Medica Managing Director Kevin Healey said Medica, through its 90 percent subsidiary Cytopia, also of Brisbane, has found a way to target selected kinases out of the more than 400 kinases used in the body's complex intercellular signaling system.

He said that with the new technique and Cytopia's method of identifying kinase blockers by a mixture of designing molecules and screening a series of candidate molecules, the company has identified potential drug candidates for autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, as well as leukemia and lymphoma.

The company is undertaking preclinical evaluation of the various target compounds and hopes to move into clinical trials later in the year. The patent applications announced by Cytopia and Medica cover several groups of molecules.

Kinases are used extensively to signal certain cell processes, including the unintended switching on of certain immune system cells involved in autoimmune diseases. Although scientists have known about the action of kinases, a broad class of enzymes, for some time, finding drug treatments that target the problem kinases while leaving the others alone has proved difficult.

But the kinase area is becoming more active with several major deals in the past 12 months involving companies with kinase expertise, including the acquisition in October of Kinetix Pharmaceuticals, of Boston, by Amgen Inc. for US$170 million. n