By Debbie Strickland

Associate

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. gave IPO candidate 3-Dimensional Pharmaceuticals Inc. a boost with a $37.9 million collaborative agreement to discover, refine and develop small-molecule drugs for genetic targets identified by BMS.

3DP CEO David U'Prichard declined to comment on the deal, citing quiet period rules related to the initial public offering registration.

BMS was bound by no such restrictions, and David Floyd, vice president of discovery chemistry, was enthusiastic about 3DP's approach to small-molecule drug discovery, an approach that helped the company prevail over competitors in landing the deal. "We looked at a tremendous number of companies, and 3DP's technologies were by far the most direct and straightforward," Floyd said.

Using the 3DP system, researchers don't have to figure out a gene's function in order to generate small-molecule drug candidates. This shortcut has "a profound impact on timelines," said Floyd. "We can save anywhere from months to years because 3DP's technology allows us to circumvent functional genomics.

"Many companies," he noted, "have freezers and freezers full of gene products, but they don't know what to do with them because conventional drug discovery relies on knowledge of function to find small molecules."

The other major area of research covered in the deal centers on G protein-coupled receptors. "The majority of drugs on the market today are actually aimed at GPCRs," Floyd said. "And there are hundreds more targets in this class."

3DP has developed a GPCR database, to which BMS gains access through a subscription, and other GPCR technology.

The disclosed terms include up-front licensing and technology access fees for 3DP of $23.5 million, plus committed research funding of $14.4 million over the first three years of the collaboration, and payments for the purchase of an undisclosed number of high-throughput screening workstations. 3DP also could receive milestone payments and royalties on sales of any products that emerge.

In exchange, Princeton, N.J.-based BMS will receive exclusive worldwide rights to compounds discovered or developed through the collaboration, and gains access to the DiscoverWorks technology platform, which integrates structure-based drug design, combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening. BMS recieves non-exclusive licenses for certain patented applications involving 3DP's DirectedDiversity combinatorial chemistry and chemi-informatics, ThermoFluor high-throughput screening and protein expression/refolding technology.

The pharmaceutical company has also taken a subscription to 3DP's Proteomica G protein-coupled receptor structural genomics database. BMS is the first subscriber to the database.

Disease targets were undisclosed, though BMS said the technology would have a near-term effect on infectious disease programs and will be applied to "all major therapeutic areas." Initially, a majority of the research will be done at 3DP, based in Exton, Pa., but Floyd added that "this is a technology transfer agreement. This represents for us a new set of platform technologies; we envision these to be integratable into our overall drug discovery effort."

In May, 3DP filed for an IPO of up to $70 million. The price range and number of shares to be offered have yet to be determined. (See BioWorld Today, May 24, 2000.)

Bear Stearns & Co., of New York, is the lead managing underwriter. Chase H&Q, of New York, and U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, of Minneapolis, are co-managing the offering.

3DP intends to use the net proceeds for research and development purposes as well as for acquiring or licensing targets or technology.

In addition to this latest deal, 3DP also has collaborative discovery agreements with DuPont Pharmaceuticals Co., of Wilmington, Del.; Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Ridgefield, N.J.; Aventis Crop Protection GmbH, of Frankfurt, Germany; the agricultural products division of E.I. DuPont de Nemours, of Wilmington, Del.; Heska Corp., of Fort Collins, Colo.; and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Birmingham, Ala.

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