By Mary Welch

In an effort to expand its portfolio of phage display technologies, Dyax Corp. acquired Target Quest, a Dutch company that specializes in the application of phage display technology for antibody engineering and discovery of novel cancer therapeutics.

"It really is an extension of our technology," said Pamela Hay, senior vice president for the Cambridge, Mass.-based Dyax. "Their technology was complementary to what we were already doing. We wanted to expand more into the therapeutic area and what they were doing interested us."

Citing Dyax's status as a private company, Hay said that no financial terms would be disclosed. However, late last year, the company raised $31 million to develop products. At that time, Henry Blair, the company's chief executive officer, told BioWorld Today the company expected to break even in 2000. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 18, 1998, p. 1.)

"We still are on target with that goal," Hay said. "Target Quest was a break-even company so it will not affect our burn rate. In fact, it may help."

Target Quest was founded in 1997 by Hennie Hoogenboom, head of a research group, CESAME, in the Department of Pathology, Maastricht University and the University Hospital Maastricht in the Netherlands. Hoogenboom will become chairman of Target Quest B.V., a wholly owned subsidiary of Dyax, and will continue to oversee the laboratory operations in Maastricht.

"We had wanted a European presence and the question became whether to start our own or acquire a presence. With Target Quest, we get a laboratory as well as Dr. Hoogenboom's expertise, the technology and contacts he has made over the years, both in the Netherlands and the UK," Hay said.

As part of the acquisition, Dyax expanded its portfolio of phage display technologies to include protein, peptide and antibody libraries. It also received rights to potential lead compounds for the treatment of cancer, and gained access to a validated antibody library. The company said it now has the most comprehensive set of phage display technologies in the industry.

Phages are viruses that infect bacteria. Dyax engineers them to express small structure peptides. The company then searches for those that bind most specifically to a targeted molecule. Phage display technology allows for the screening of up to hundreds of millions of compounds over a short period of time, the company said.

Dyax intends to devote more resources to its own drug-development efforts and separation products. It has developed two therapeutic leads: one for pulmonary diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, which is partnered with Debiopharm SA, of Lausanne, Switzerland; and another for hereditary angioedema, a potentially fatal inflammatory disorder, with Genzyme Corp., of Cambridge, Mass.