LONDON  Pharmagene plc, of Royston, Hertfordshire, has signed an agreement with London-based SmithKline Beecham plc to evaluate its human-tissue preclinical testing service. The 12-month agreement will evaluate the methodology employed in the assessment of gut permeability to a defined set of model compounds.

Alastair Riddell, CEO of Pharmagene, said the company is ¿delighted¿ by the deal.

Pharmagene, founded in March 1996, focuses on using human tissue to test novel biological molecules. The company says it has a unique resource in the 10,000 samples of human tissue it has collected, and claims it is the first in the world to perform the full range of preclinical studies using solely human tissue. The tissues represent the main organ systems of the body, together with their associated clinical history.

According to Pharmagene, this approach is particularly powerful in helping to select gene targets, allowing pharmaceutical companies to prioritize the profusion of genes and gene families generated by their structural genomics programs. Pharmagene is able to generate maps not only of the expression of genes and proteins, but also of the function of expressed proteins and the effects of drugs upon them, in a wide range of tissues. The company claims that such human preclinical data will lower the development risks for its clients.

¿Pharmagene is confident that the use of relevant human tissue will enable [SmithKline] to reduce the inherent commercial risks of drug discovery by permitting the development of a drug with known safety and efficacy in human tissue,¿ Riddell said.

Pharmagene aims to become profitable by offering contract research services, and is applying the techniques to in-house drug discovery. n

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