LONDON - SynGenix Ltd., which specializes in neuronal drug delivery, signed its first deal, with Glaxo Wellcome plc in the area of neuropathic pain, and embarked on a funding round to raise about #10 million (US$14.3 million).

CEO Tom Saylor told BioWorld International, "We have kept a low profile for the company until now because we wanted to make sure our technology platform is solid. With the signing of this deal we are now confident. We are in discussions with other companies in other areas, and expect to do further deals in the next six months."

The terms of the agreement with Glaxo Wellcome were not disclosed, but Saylor said it included an up-front payment, milestones and royalties.

SynGenix's ProVector technology relies on axonal transport, the process by which nerve cells maintain their sensory nerve endings, or axons. Axons may be up to 1 meter away from the body of the nerve cell. SynGenix has found that appropriately formulated substances are taken up by axons and transported to the nervous system.

The ProVector technology can target both small-molecule drugs and macromolecules to the nervous system, and since the nervous system is territorial (that is, particular nerves cover segments of the body), drugs can be delivered to one part of the nervous system and not others.

"Axonal transport is used naturally by the body to communicate up and down neurons," Saylor said. "We have worked out how to hitch a ride on the nervous system." It is no more difficult to conjugate large molecules than small to the ProVector system, and it could be used for delivering genes. The drugs would be administered either transmucosally or by injection.

SynGenix, based in Cambridge, England, has raised around #2 million to date from venture capitalists and private investors. Although it was formed seven years ago around research from Cambridge University, it is only in the past two years that the company has actively developed the technology.

Saylor said he has begun to raise around #10 million to expand the business. This will include the company getting its first candidate, an off-patent drug, into clinical trials in the next 18 months. SynGenix also will set up a target validation service, offer to rescue drugs that have failed because of delivery problems, and to reformulate drugs that are coming off patent.

"There are lots of ways to develop the technology. We see it fitting lots of immediate needs, but also being used to deliver next-generation drugs discovered through genomics," he said.

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