By Jim Shrine

Delta Pharmaceuticals Inc. officials entered their first collaboration since leaving Glaxo Wellcome Inc. three years ago with technology in the area of delta opioid receptors.

The Research Triangle Park, N.C., company agreed to a ¿multimillion dollar¿ development and distribution agreement with Organon Teknika, a subsidiary of the Akzo Nobel Pharma Group, based in Arhem, the Netherlands. The deal centers on the injectable analgesic DPI 3290, which targets the mu receptor, like other analgesics, and the delta receptor to block resulting side effects.

The compound, a peptidomimetic, has been tested in a Phase I study with 52 healthy volunteers. Delta President and CEO Ken Chang said DPI 3290 demonstrated pain relief similar to morphine and fentanyl, but without the associated nausea, respiratory depression and vomiting.

¿This deal is wonderful for us,¿ Chang said, ¿because Organon is the best fit for our technology. Organon is the leader in the anesthesiology area. That they licensed our product proves our concept, validates our technology and provides the funds for us to move on to future products. That¿s important for a start-up company.¿

Chang was working at Burroughs Wellcome Co., a former U.S. affiliate of London-based Wellcome plc, when Wellcome and Glaxo plc merged in 1995. He and Robert McNutt had been working for years on delta receptors, though the work had not fully matured at that time. Glaxo, which already had a fentanyl-type product, agreed to license the technology and library of about 450 compounds to Chang, in exchange for a small royalty on resulting products.

¿We were the first ones to discover these compounds, and have been working in the area for more than 10 years,¿ said Chang, who formed Delta Pharmaceuticals in 1996. ¿We are the only ones who have put a compound in the clinic.¿

Further behind in the pipeline at Delta are delta receptor-affecting compounds for indications such as urinary incontinence, neuroprotection and narcotic overdose and addiction. The lead focus, now that DPI 3290 is partnered, is developing a formulation of that drug that could be used in chronic, rather than acute, settings. That is probably more than a year away, Chang said.

Organon¿s rights are only for the injectable drug. That deal includes a ¿multimillion-dollar¿ up-front payment; ¿multi-million-dollar¿ milestones that would be triggered upon enrollment of the first patient in a Phase III trial, filing of a new drug application and product approval; and royalties on sales, Chang said.

Organon is taking over development, and is expected to enter Phase II trials late this year, he said.

Some of Delta¿s compounds act on the delta receptor, and some on both the delta and mu receptors. Chang has published a number of articles on the subject, showing how a drug that also acts on the delta receptor will block side effects from those acting only on the mu receptor.

Delta has two major shareholders, Chang and XenoBiotics Laboratories Inc., of Princeton, N.J., which gained its stake by exchanging services for shares. McNutt, co-inventor of much of the work, recently left his position as senior scientist of medicinal chemistry at Glaxo Wellcome Inc., a subsidiary in Research Triangle Park of Glaxo Wellcome plc, to join Delta. The company has about six employees.

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