By Karen Pihl-Carey

By pooling resources, expertise and technology from four entities, a group of business and scientific leaders formed Anadys Pharmaceuticals Inc., a new company to focus on "riboproteomics" - the characterization and annotation of RNA-protein interactions.

Using riboproteomics, the company aims to discover, develop and commercialize new drugs to treat infectious diseases. The method provides a new approach to overcome drug-resistant disease.

"The formation of Anadys creates instantly the critical mass and brings together the expertise to make a technology-driven company a dominant player in an area that has unmet needs," said Kleanthis Xanthopoulos, president and CEO.

Anadys joins together into one company expertise from several sources:

¿ Informatics, RNA biology and metabolism from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg Germany.

¿ Proprietary high-throughput screening and target validation methods from Scriptgen Pharmaceuticals, of Boston.

¿ High-throughput, medicinal chemistry and development capabilities from the University of California, San Diego.

¿ Technologies from Scripps Research Institute, of La Jolla, Calif.

"What attracted us to Scriptgen is that the proprietary screening technology can screen equally well for protein as well as RNA targets," Xanthopoulos said. "We want to dominate the area where we've seen an unmet need."

The company will be headquartered in San Diego, where development of compounds will take place, but will continue to have a Boston facility for biology and target evaluation and validation, as well as for high-throughput screening, and a Heidelberg, facility for informatics and the use of EMBL expertise. The Heidelberg facility will be located adjacent to EMBL. The company's name - Anadys - stands for the Greek words "east to west" and signifies the company's east to west flow of operations, Xanthopoulos told BioWorld Today.

Anadys was created when Scriptgen issued shares to Xanthopoulos and other business and scientific leaders, such as Stelios Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos was one of the founders and original investors in Exelixis Inc., of South San Francisco, and Germany-based Cellzome, among several other biotechnology companies. He will serve as a member of the Anadys board of directors.

The company has 24 million total shares, including an expanded option pool for employees. It also plans to raise more capital shortly, Xanthopoulos said. Following the financing, he expects the company will have enough money to operate for 18 to 24 months, about the time it will take to reach the investigational new drug application stage for two drug candidates now in preclinical development.

The preclinical programs focus on immunomodulation to combat chronic hepatitis C virus infection. The company also has several programs under way to deliver other novel HCV drug candidates and is exploring the in-licensing of other later-stage antiviral drug candidates.

Xanthopoulos said the company may or may not partner its products, depending on what opportunities are available. The company does have a plan to eventually go public.

"Clearly, with the set of enabling technologies that we have, with two programs in advanced preclinical development to target antivirals, with the depth of the management team and with the support of the investors, we clearly see . . . the company could have a good chance of accessing public markets in the future," he said.

Anadys has plans to build a portfolio of drug products to treat infectious diseases and become a new-generation pharmaceutical company. Initially, it will focus on developing several antiviral products and capitalizing on opportunities from collaborations around specific technologies and compounds to build near-term revenues. The worldwide market for prescription anti-infective therapies is about $19 billion.

The company has strategic alliances with Aventis to discover antifungal targets and drug lead compounds; with Eli Lilly and Co. to discover antibacterial targets and drug lead compounds; and Pharmacia Corp., which has a non-exclusive license to use Anadys technology in the discovery and validation of targets for antifungal drugs. So far, the Aventis program has identified and validated more than 30 targets, developed 12 screening assays and has screened both Aventis and Anadys compound libraries.

Aside from its collaborations, Anadys has identified and validated more than 10 antibacterial targets, developed seven screening assays and demonstrated preliminary in vitro activity of several antibacterial compounds. It is packaging the program to go to an outside pharmaceutical or biotech company.

Anadys now has a total of about 85 employees, and that will increase to 110 or 120 by the first quarter of next year, Xanthopoulos said. Its web site is located at www.anadyspharma.com.

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