VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Following Inex Pharmaceuticals Corp.'s multiyear research collaboration deal with Massachusetts-based Sequitur Inc., Inex becomes the U.S. company's first subscriber to a functional genomics program that offers access to the latest antisense compounds and technology.

The program has been built around data from Sequitur's in-house cellular screening system and its network of experts in the antisense field.

James Miller, president and CEO of Inex, of Vancouver, said the objective of the collaboration will be to develop antisense chemistries using the company's Transmembrane Carrier Systems (TCS) to deliver the therapeutic agent to the interior of diseased cells to block the function of the disease-causing genes.

Specific TCS formulations are being used by Inex depending on the intended destination inside the body and the therapeutic objective of the drug being delivered. Although TCS has been developed to deliver antisense and gene plasmid drugs, more basic versions also can be configured to deliver conventional drugs.

There will be two major research themes, Miller said. TCS technologies will make use of Sequitur's program for identifying optimal antisense sequences to inhibit genes of interest. Sequitur will identify one antisense lead compound for each of five gene targets that Inex specifies. Inex then will be given an option to license exclusive rights to Sequitur's chimeric chemistry for these compounds. Sequitur also will screen and compare alternative antisense chemistries against the same five targets.

In a second program, new compounds derived from Sequitur's protein expression technology (PET), which is designed to produce protein expression in the interior of targeted cells, will be evaluated. Inex will test PET in comparison with gene plasmids for protein expression efficiency. Sequitur will grant Inex exclusive rights to three PET targets of its choice and the two companies will be 50-50 partners on all other applications of the technology.

These new approaches to protein expression complement Inex's ongoing gene therapy activities and may create an entirely new product opportunity for the company.

“Our antisense program has been expanded to where the company is now one of the world leaders in gene-based therapeutics,“ Miller added.

The collaboration with Sequitur follows closely on the heels of the company's acquisition of a portfolio of antisense drug products, patents and manufacturing facilities from Lynx Therapeutics Inc., of Hayward, Calif.

Inex now owns more than 22 patents and licenses relating to the modified antisense chemistries and manufacturing technologies for phosphorothioate compounds and, in the fields of cancer and inflammation, phosphoramidate compounds. The patent portfolio also includes a number of exclusive licenses to lead product candidates against cancer-related genes including c-myc, c-myb and IGF-1R.

Inex's first product in clinical trials is Onco TCS, which contains the anticancer drug vincristine. Onco TCS is being evaluated in Phase II clinical trials to study safety and effectiveness in patients with pancreatic and metastatic colorectal cancer.

The second product, acquired in the Lynx deal, is INX-3280, a free (non-encapsulated) antisense drug now in Phase II clinical trials for cardiovascular restenosis.

Restenosis is a condition in which scar tissue builds up after bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty and other treatments designed to open partially clogged arteries. This is a potentially large market, given that approximately 50 percent of the more than 1 million patients who undergo angioplasty each year worldwide will develop restenosis. *