BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - The French drug discovery company Cerep SA has signed interrelated collaboration agreements with four European companies for the creation of libraries of therapeutic compounds.

The deals are with Laboratoires Fournier, of Dijon, France; Gr|nenthal, of Aachen, Germany; Zambon, of Milan, Italy; and a fourth partner that prefers to remain anonymous.

Under the two-year agreements, the companies have formed an ad hoc consortium for the purpose of supplying shared information to Cerep for the creation of different libraries of synthesized compounds of exceptional purity. The synthesized compounds will have to meet physical and chemical criteria that increase their probability of becoming drug candidates.

The information provided by the four partners will relate to the type of activity, the physical and chemical characteristics, and the other properties sought in the compounds they want, and Cerep will supply them with several tens of thousands altogether. The compounds will be grouped into libraries characterized by certain biochemical and structural specificities, and each library will be paid for separately, with the four companies paying equal amounts. Cerep expects to spend the next 18 months producing the synthesized compounds, and it could subsequently resynthesize some of them.

Cerep's scientific director for drug discovery, Fridiric Revah, told BioWorld International that the deal called for it to use its expertise in the fields of combinatorial chemistry, medicinal chemistry and chemical informatics, which enabled it to provide "real value added in terms of the chemical and pharmacological properties of the compounds it created and their drug development potential."

He also stressed the unique structure of the joint collaboration agreements, which were framed to avoid any problems of intellectual property rights or competition between the partners. The four companies, which are relatively small players by the standards of the international pharmaceutical industry, were making the most cost-effective use of their limited resources, said Revah, since the deal would give them collections of compounds comparable to those of large pharmaceutical corporations. Each would have access to all the compounds, which they could develop for whatever therapeutic applications interested them.

At Zambon, for instance, research and development director Mac Fellmann said the agreement would accelerate its capacity to produce innovative drugs in the fields of feminine hygiene, dermatology and pulmonary diseases.