By Mary Welch

Albany Molecular Research Inc. (AMRI) acquired EnzyMed Inc., a privately held discovery services company, in a stock swap worth about $20.6 million.

The Albany, N.Y.-based company will issue about 670,000 shares of its common stock that will be exchanged for EnzyMed's privately held stock. For every six shares of EnzyMed's stock, one share of AMRI will be exchanged, leaving EnzyMed with about 4 percent equity in AMRI. Currently, Albany Molecular has about 13.5 million shares outstanding. After the merger's completion, that number would be around 14.2 million. EnzyMed, based in Iowa City, Iowa, will remain an independent business unit of AMRI. The merger is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

"AMRI is a premier preclinical chemistry outsourcing company and EnzyMed is a market leader in using enzymatic and microbial systems to do transformations in compounds," said Kurt Heiar, president and CEO of EnzyMed. "Together we could increase business opportunities and provide a one-stop approach. Our platform strongly complements the use of AMRI's combinatorial chemistry, traditional synthesis and metabolite modeling techniques."

From AMRI's perspective, the two firms' synergy "will provide even more services we can offer our customers," said Thomas D'Ambra, AMRI's chairman and chief executive officer. "With EnzyMed, we can now expand our service offerings by providing complementary, one-of-a-kind technology that allows us to create new drug molecules that previously could not be accessed or could only be prepared through lengthy traditional chemical synthesis. The challenge today is to get compounds to the clinic as fast as possible and not to get [them] chewed up in the process. I think this will be powerful technology and will add a lot of value to our customers."

EnzyMed's technology, called Bioactiv, integrates iterative biocatalytic reactions (enzymatic and microbial) with selected chemical syntheses on an automated robotic platform. This integration allows for the rapid treatment of leads with a number of enzymes and microbial conditions in order to create novel derivatives that might not be accessible using chemical synthesis. The technology is applicable to small molecules, natural products and large synthetic leads.

Founded in 1994, EnzyMed has collaborations with several firms, including RiboGene Inc., of Hayward, Calif.; F. Hoffmann-LaRoche AG, of Basel Switzerland; and Kosan Biosciences Inc., of Burlingame, Calif.

AMRI integrates research and development services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Among its services are organic custom synthesis, stability studies, medicinal chemistry and organic custom synthesis.

The company went public in February, offering 2.5 million shares at $20 per share.

Albany Molecular's stock (NASDAQ:AMRI) closed Thursday at $28.125, down $1.875.