HAMBURG, Germany - The drug discovery companies GPC AG and Novalon Pharmaceutical Corp. entered a collaboration for the development of a new generation of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Using a proprietary high-throughput knockout technique to detect essential genes, GPC, of Martinsried, Germany, identified and validated 22 novel antibacterial targets. Already one of these targets is used in a collaboration with Evotec AG, of Hamburg, which began in April.

Two other targets will be used in the Novalon cooperation, Elmar Maier, vice president of business at GPC, told BioWorld International.

"The Novalon cooperation mirrors the Evotec alliance," he said. "Novalon will develop high-throughput screening assays, based upon its proprietary BioKey assay technology. It then will screen small-molecule compound libraries and identify lead compounds with potent antibacterial activity."

Novalon, of Durham, N.C., has developed BioKey, a proprietary technology used to identify high-affinity probes that bind with selectivity and specificity to the microbial targets. The resulting BioKeys are labeled to format screening assays to identify small molecules that displace the BioKeys from the target. That way, novel classes of anti-microbial compounds can be found very rapidly.

According to Novalon, the technique reduces time, expense and technical challenges associated with developing individual biochemical assays so that lead discovery takes weeks instead of months. Current partners for this technology include Bayer AG and Millennium Pharma- ceuticals Inc. A cooperation with Axys Pharmaceuticals Inc. signed in June provided Novalon immediate access to a library of more than 200,000 compounds.

"As GPC and Novalon have developed matching complementary techniques we are convinced that the cooperation can be extended to other microbial or human targets in the future," Maier said. "This collaboration is another example of our strategy to weave an international network of strategic biotech-biotech alliances.

"Such networks speed up research and development, and the broad basis of knowledge and technology in such virtually integrated drug discovery infrastructures is very attractive for pharmaceutical partners looking for one-stop-shop alliances," he said.