By Mary Welch

Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Neurogen Corp. entered a collaborative agreement to search for new anti-infective compounds in a battle against drug resistant microorganisms.

Financial terms were not discussed, but the companies will share equally in any future product sales.

Cubist's biochemical and whole-cell based assays will be screened against a portion of Neurogen's combinatorial library, generated using the Branford, Conn., company's Accelerated Intelligent Drug Design.

"This is a great opportunity for Cubist to access Neurogen's compound library and add diversity to the collection of compounds," said Susan Whoriskey, director of scientific licensing for Cubist. "With this access, we can accelerate the drug discovery."

Cubist, of Cambridge, Mass., has more than 100 biochemical and whole-cell based screening assays aimed at identifying compounds that kill bacteria by disrupting essential cellular functions.

"When targets are identified through screening, we'll go to Neurogen's virtual library of compounds and look for hits that are structurally similar," said Whoriskey. "We'll be screening both whole cell and enzyme-based assays. Then we prioritize what we want to further synthesize and screen using a larger virtual library. We'll be screening a half a billion compounds."

The project will seek a new chemical class of anti-infective drugs. "The idea is to screen new targets and new chemical classes that will maximize our opportunities," said Whoriskey. "We're trying to find targets that have never before been used as an anti-infective. It's a better opportunity to treat drug resistant conditions.

"This collaboration is really important because it provides a large collection of diversified targets. It's not just one set of targets. The diversity is what's important."

The collaborating partners are seeking drugs to fight such pathogens as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus areus (MRSA) and vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE). It is estimated half nearly half of S. aureus strains isolated in hospitals today are resistant to methicillin. *