PARIS ¿ Drug-discovery company Cerep SA and pharmaceutical firm Sanofi SA, both of Paris, have expanded the scope of the research collaboration agreement they entered in December 1997. It has been enlarged to include the screening of two additional targets using Cerep¿s integrated drug-discovery platform, in return for which Sanofi is doubling its annual funding commitment to Cerep.

The original agreement covered the discovery and development of chemical compounds for a number of therapeutic targets, and is being implemented in two stages. In the first phase, Cerep is designing and producing a private library of chemical compounds for use by Sanofi in its in-house research and development programs. In the second phase, the companies will undertake joint discovery and optimization programs using what Cerep describes as its High Throughput Lead Development (HTLD) technology.

Cerep¿s CEO Thierry Jean said Sanofi will be the first partner to fully benefit from the HTLD capabilities. In effect, while Cerep has been providing profiling and other drug-discovery services to numerous pharmaceutical companies since its creation in 1989, it is now seeking to diversify into higher value-added activities by negotiating strategic drug discovery collaborations as well as undertaking drug discovery and development on its own account.

As part of their initial agreement, Sanofi acquired a 5 percent to 6 percent equity stake worth FFr22.5 million (US$3.7 million) in Cerep at the time of the latter¿s initial public offering in February 1998. Last week, Cerep announced that its revenues in the fourth quarter of 1998 were 15 percent down in the third quarter, and 39 percent lower than in the final quarter of 1997, although its turnover for 1998 as whole increased by 16 percent to FFr56.1 million from FFr48.4 million in 1997. n