PARIS ¿ The French drug-discovery company Cerep S.A. has signed a two-year research collaboration agreement with its Belgian counterpart, Tibotec NV, of Mechelen, for the identification of candidate drugs to treat the HIV virus. The deal provides for costs and revenues to be shared equally between the two countries.

The collaboration brings together Cerep¿s technological platform and Tibotec¿s analytical expertise in the field of HIV. Chemical compounds from Cerep¿s collection will be screened by Tibotec, utilizing the latter¿s exclusive tests for identifying promising candidates. The two companies will jointly conduct pharmacological profiling, optimization studies and pre-clinical testing of the compounds considered of greatest therapeutic potential in the treatment of HIV.

Tibotec will allow Cerep to use its high-throughput cellular screening tests, while its unique collection of the different strains of the HIV virus will be utilized for the profiling and optimization tests. In addition, Cerep¿s high-throughput lead development technology will be used to evaluate the toxicity, bioavailability and metabolic profile of the hits resulting from the high-throughput selection of candidate drugs. The research will also draw on Cerep¿s proprietary technology in the area of pharmacology, combinatorial chemistry and molecular modeling.

Stressing the complementarity between the two companies¿ technological expertise, the chairman of Tibotec, Rudi Pauwels, said access to Cerep¿s technology platform will enable the company to ¿capitalize on our know-how in the field of HIV and to optimize the targets we have identified.¿ The chairman of Cerep, Thierry Jean, similarly underlined the ¿synergy¿ between the two companies, adding that the deal demonstrated Cerep¿s determination to discover new active compounds.

Tibotec¿s research is targeted at three areas, HIV, oncology and infectious diseases, and the company boasts one of the largest laboratories in Europe, complying with L3 safety criteria. Its robotic analysis system enables it to screen thousands of candidate drugs automatically, utilizing miniaturized evaluation tests based on viral models.

For Cerep, this collaboration agreement, following that concluded with Pfizer Inc., of New York, near the end of May, has brought a sharp recovery in its share price. After slumping from FFr225 (US$37.50) at the time of its initial public offering on the Nouveau Marchi in February 1998 to under FFr50 in early May, its shares had picked up to FFr111.50 by June 9.