BioWorld International Correspondent

Combio A/S, a Danish start-up established to commercialize a solid-phase combinatorial chemistry platform developed by brewing giant Carlsberg A/S, of Copenhagen, is close to entering its first partnership.

The company is finalizing the details of a collaboration with another Danish firm, OsteoPro A/S, of Herlev, in the area of metalloprotease inhibitors, said Combio CEO Kjell Stenberg, who commenced full-time executive duties last week.

Carlsberg spun off Combio last fall to exploit technology it had developed in association with the Center for Solid-Phase Organic Combinatorial Chemistry in Copenhagen. It comprises patented bead technology, based on an inert, porous polymer that contains polyethyl-englycol. Individual beads are between 0.1 mm and 0.3 mm in diameter. Stenberg, previously vice president for external alliances at AstraZeneca plc, of London, said it offers "a neat way of making directed libraries."

It will lead to logarithmic-scale improvements in screening efficiencies, he said, as the technology enables researchers to rapidly test new molecular assemblies, based on small-molecule building blocks, for any target-specific activity. The target under investigation is washed through a solution containing a mixture of beads, to which different chemical entities are bound. A simple fluorescence quenching assay pinpoints particular molecules or structural elements that interact with the target. "It is quite superior to massively parallel schemes," Stenberg said.

Combio has inherited the impending OsteoPro alliance from its parent company. It also aims to partner with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies with validated targets. In addition, it will build its own biological capability and generate targets internally. The latter program should be up and running by the third quarter, Stenberg said. The company also is considering how to exploit the technology's potential in drug delivery, he said, although it has not yet determined its strategy there.

In addition to Stenberg, the company's founding team includes Carlsberg senior scientist Morten Meldal and Soren Mouritsen, who is CEO of M&E Biotech A/S, of Horsholm. Carlsberg Research Director Klaus Bock is chairman.

The company raised DKK60 million (US$7.6 million) in first-round financing, led by Medicon Valley Capital of Hellerup. Novo A/S, Lonmodtagernes Dyrtidsfond and Dansk Kapitalanlaeg also participated. Carlsberg remains Combio's largest shareholder, with over 25 percent of its equity. Stenberg said the company might raise a larger sum later this year to accelerate development of its biological team.