LONDON ¿ The drug delivery specialist Quadrant Healthcare plc will form a joint venture company with Elan Corporation plc to work on the oral delivery of protein and peptide drugs.

Elan, based in Dublin, has made a #5 million (US$7.8 million) equity investment in Quadrant and is subscribing to loan notes, worth up to US$16 million, to enable Quadrant to fund its obligations under the joint venture over the next two years. In addition, warrants will be issued to Elan for up to 500,000 Quadrant shares at #1.20, exercisable for up to six years.

Iain Ross, CEO of Quadrant, told BioWorld International that the as-yet-unnamed company will have access to any appropriate technology from either partner.

¿We will put in all our technology as it pertains to stabilization and delivery of macromolecules, and will have access to all Elan¿s drug delivery platforms,¿ he said. ¿This is a very open relationship.¿ The company will be based at Quadrant¿s headquarters in Nottingham, utilizing resources of both Elan and Quadrant, and contracting in services as appropriate. It will be incorporated offshore.

The joint venture initially will have the equivalent of six full time staff. ¿The Quadrant members of the team will work on certain projects and then transfer them over to Elan,¿ said Ross.

Quadrant¿s key technologies are in the use of a sugar, trehalose, to dry and stabilize molecules, and in particle engineering. This enables it to offer long-term ambient temperature storage of unstable and heat-sensitive drugs, such as vaccines, and to engineer the particle size and shape of drugs for the chosen route of administration.

In its in-house program, Quadrant is concentrating on the pulmonary delivery of powdered drugs. ¿For us to exploit our technology in oral drug delivery is a massive task,¿ Ross said. ¿We have spoken to a number of large drug delivery companies in the past two years, and we believe we will get the best exploitation of our technology from working with Elan. The joint venture is very significant to Quadrant, because it will take forward our work in oral delivery of peptide drugs, allowing us to concentrate on powder delivery.¿ Quadrant has a cash balance of #25 million.

Ross said the research and development staff of the two companies is in advanced discussions and has drawn up a list of molecules.

¿We have yet to decide which to take forward first,¿ Ross said.