By Debbie Strickland

Over the last two years, Tripos Inc. has through a series of alliances parlayed its expertise in chemical informatics into a platform of drug discovery services that now includes compound libraries and lead-refinement, screening services, target discovery and toxicology testing.

As part of that drive, the company has acquired for an undisclosed sum Receptor Research Ltd., a privately held British firm specializing in custom synthesis using solid-phase chemistry for biological applications.

"The idea is that the compounds are done on a custom basis for clients who have their own receptor targets and want to screen a selected set of compounds against those receptors to look for biological activities," said Colleen Martin, Tripos' chief financial officer.

Receptor Research — to be renamed Tripos Receptor Research Ltd. (TRR) — is based in Bude, U.K., and currently has 12 employees.

"They have a very good reputation in the industry for novel chemistries and for completion of deadlines," said Martin. "In fact, it was a customer that told us about Receptor Research."

Tripos, which has three European offices, plans to nearly double TRR's workforce over the next year and add 10,000 square feet of new laboratory space to its new subsidiary, a profitable enterprise that brings with it 17 corporate collaborations, including, Martin said, deals with "several of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies."

TRR's technology complements Tripos' work with Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc., a privately held San Diego company. Under an agreement signed in July, Arena provides receptor identification technology, screening and biology, while Tripos provides informatics technology and access to the Optiverse library of more than 100,000 diverse compounds. The companies are jointly seeking therapeutic targets and lead compounds to be partnered with pharmaceutical companies.

Optiverse itself is a collaborative project. In 1995, Tripos joined forces with Bothell, Wash.-based Panlabs International Inc. to offer Optiverse with follow-up services that create refined leads when clients notice biological activity.

TRR will provide a second source of high-volume, receptor-oriented chemical synthesis for both the Arena program as well as other Tripos collaborators.

"What this provides for Tripos is the ability to participate in contracts Panlabs may not be interested in, such as royalty-based or high-risk contracts," said Martin.

In the last six months, Tripos has signed up four new partners:

* The Parke-Davis Research division of Warner-Lambert Co., which earlier this month licensed Tripos' compound design software.

* Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of Princeton N.J., which licensed ChemSpace, a virtual database of more than 1 trillion compounds.

* Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, which purchased access to the Optiverse library for screening against targets related to diabetes, obesity and dyslipidemia.

* Pfizer Inc., of Groton, Conn., which is funding research and development of new software tools to describe compounds and data from biological tests of the compounds.

Over the first three quarters of 1997, Tripos reported sales gains of 16 percent, to $22.1 million, compared to the comparable 1996 quarter, with a net income gain of 62 percent, to $1.4 million. As of Sept. 30, the company had $8.9 million in cash.

Tripos' shares (NASDAQ:TRPS) closed Tuesday unchanged at $16. *

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