By Matthew Willett

Lion Bioscience AG and Tripos Inc. will give Bayer AG a one-two punch of cheminformatics and bioinformatics technology to speed lead-candidate identification in a $25 million deal company representatives call the first of its kind for drug discovery.

The deal, a result of Lion's relationship with both companies, will combine Tripos' MetaLayer cheminformatics software with Lion's SRS database integrator.

Tripos President and CEO John McAlister said the combination should produce intellectual property the companies can commercialize throughout the industry, in addition to a software platform that can replace the sequential method of drug development with a parallel strategy.

"We believe very strongly that it's a benchmark agreement," he told BioWorld Today. "This is the first time a company has had the foresight to say, 'We could save a lot of time and be more efficient if we brought together data from all our research activity.' This is a common problem in big pharma companies throughout the world, and we see this as the first of what we hope to be a number of contracts like this."

Lion CEO Friedrich von Bohlen said it doesn't even take two eyes to see the need for a combined bio-chem-informatics platform for information management.

"We've created pharmacoinformatics, which is actually the marriage of bioinformatics and cheminformatics," von Bohlen said. "Pharmacoinformatics tells you which chemical structures on the chemistry and biology sides are likely to trigger which biological response, and in that you have system planning as well as analysis potential."

The $25 million deal includes milestone payments as well as an up-front technology licensing fee, but it's the non-exclusivity that appeals most to the companies.

"This is a non-exclusive deal," von Bohlen said. "Everything we develop and implement we can implement at any other place at the same time. Lion is definitely open to partnerships and corporate partners. We don't need to reinvent cheminformatics; we just want to do it better, more intelligently, faster and more ambitiously bring it together. It's a question of attitude, and I think we demonstrate through this deal that our attitude is for what's good for the industry."

The 30-month deal is likely, von Bohlen said, to inspire others to take on a cheminformatics-bioinformatics combination project.

"We want to stay ahead of the industry because the longer it takes us, the more likely it is that someone will try to come along and copy this. There will be more companies doing this; if you have a good product you'll have other companies that will have similar things," he said.

McAlister agreed. "There's a tremendous synergy between Tripos and Lion, given the nature of the fundamental expertise of Lion in bioinformatics and Tripos in cheminformatics. It's likely you'll see a number of additional contracts like this with a number of companies in the future."

Lion, of Heidelberg, Germany, saw a jump in its stock (NASDAQ:LEON) Monday, up $3.25, to $83. St. Louis-based Tripos' stock (NASDAQ:TRPS) rose as well, 75 cents to close at $23.75.

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