DUBLIN, Ireland - Swedish drug discovery company Karo Bio AB has gained access to five new assays for studying estrogen receptor binding and to a set of lead compounds for metabolic disorders such as obesity and hypercholesterolemia, under an extended patent license agreement with academic collaborators at the University of California.

The lead compounds are all small organic molecules, said Per Otteskog, vice president of R&D with Stockholm-based Karo Bio. They will feed into the company's collaboration with Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co., of Princeton, N.J., which centers on developing treatments for metabolic disorders based on thyroid hormone receptor beta agonists.

The new assay techniques will aid in the identification of new lead compounds for estrogen-related diseases, such as osteoporosis and breast cancer, and postmenopausal conditions. Karo Bio has a collaboration with Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., in this area.

The assays enable researchers to characterize the mode of action of an estrogen receptor response, said Otteskog, as estrogen receptors can mediate their responses by several pathways. The new technologies also will help create additional partnering opportunities, according to a company statement.

Karo Bio raised SEK111 million net in an initial public offering at the beginning of April. The flotation was oversubscribed twelvefold. Seventy-five percent of the new share issue was taken up by Swedish and European institutions, said Hakan Hallberg, vice president of finance and administration at Karo Bio.

Swedish shipping company Stena AB and the Swedish Industrial Development Fund remain Karo Bio's biggest shareholders. The company's market capitalization now stands at SEK1.175 billion, Hallberg said. - Cormac Sheridan