By Jim Shrine

Special To BioWorld Today

Trega Biosciences Inc. secured the first partner for its new combinatorial chemistry platform, Chem.Folio, signing Biogen Inc. to a $7.5 million deal.

Trega, of San Diego, will give Biogen access to several hundred thousand compounds over the deal's two years, said Noel Wheeler, Trega's director of corporate development. Under the terms of the nonexclusive agreement, Biogen will use the library in its small-molecule discovery program against undisclosed targets.

"The goal of Chem.Folio is to generate near-term revenue for the company," Wheeler told BioWorld Today. "We structured it so we receive all the fees on an up-front basis. Biogen can use the compounds on a nonexclusive basis without any downstream rights from Trega."

Chem.Folio is designed to give companies access to small-molecule compounds to use as screening libraries. Begun this year, the Chem.Folio program has an inventory of 65,000 compounds, with a goal of 120,000 by the end of the year and 400,000-plus by the end of next year.

Under its previous name, Houghten Pharmaceuticals Inc., Trega was known for creating compounds in a mixture-based format rather than the current single-based small-molecule compound arrays. The new libraries have been designed to have characteristics of existing drugs and of those wanted by pharmaceutical companies.

In a separate part of the deal, Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen gained non-exclusive licenses to certain Trega chemical-synthesis technologies that could help in the creation of compounds via solid-phase synthesis. That deal includes an undisclosed up-front element and milestones of up to $2 million for each compound Biogen takes forward that arises from the synthesis technology, Wheeler said.

In the Chem.Folio part of the deal, Biogen has an option to ask Trega for additional analogues or medicinal chemistry work on promising leads.

Chem.Folio Revenue To Fund Drug Discovery

Wheeler said Trega is trying to get the word out about its Chem.Folio library. "Because of our name change and technology shift some people have not caught up with where our program is," she said.

The company intends to use near-term revenue from Chem.Folio partnerships to fund further work in the area of the melanocortin receptor pathway, and to investigate other potential internal discovery programs.

Trega has collaborations on two of the five melanocortin receptors. Novartis AG, of Basel, Switzerland, is working with Trega on the MC-4 receptor, which may be implicated in diseases such as obesity and Type II diabetes. The MC-1 receptor is partnered with Ono Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., of Osaka, Japan, in a deal focused on inflammatory diseases.

As of June 30, Trega had $11 million in cash, with a net loss of $5.8 million for the first six months of the year. The company's stock (NASDAQ:TRGA) closed Monday at $1.937, up $0.062. *