Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. has received its first milestone paymentfrom Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., under a $56 million research anddevelopment agreement between the two companies that was signedon June 25, 1996.

The amount of the payment was not disclosed.

Under terms of the agreement, Bristol-Myers, of Princeton, N.J., andCubist Pharmaceuticals, of Cambridge, Mass., are collaborating todiscover novel agents to treat bacterial and fungal infections, amongthem tuberculosis.

The focus of the collaboration will be to target specific aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, a family of 20 enzymes essential to the process ofprotein translation required for survival of all organisms.

The agreement specified that Bristol-Myers make a $4 million equityinvestment in Cubist and provide research funding for three yearswith an option for a fourth year. Bristol-Myers has obtainedworldwide licensing rights to market any anti-infective drugsdeveloped during the collaboration in consideration of milestonesand future royalties.

The $56 million does not include royalties on product sales.

"We received this milestone," Scott Rocklage, president and CEO ofCubist, told BioWorld Today, "for developing and transferringtechnology enabling Bristol-Myers to target specific aminoacyl-tRNAsynthetase enzymes, technology which is being used by Bristol-Myers in the high-throughput screening of compound libraries toidentify potential drug leads."

"This technology is to discover novel agents to treat bacterial andfungal infections," Rocklage said.

Cubist is engaged in the research, development andcommercialization of novel anti-infective drugs to treat diseasescaused by bacteria and fungi, primarily those resistant to existinganti-infective drugs.

Rocklage said the number of microorganisms now resistant to manyavailable drug therapies is a growing and extremely serious medicalproblem. He listed such pathogens as Staphylococcus aureus,Streptococcus pneumoniae, Candida albicans and Mycobacteriumtuberculosis as examples of "the bugs" that are currently causingthese resistant infections.

Cubist's strategy, Rocklage explained, for combating anti-infectivedrug resistance is to identify novel genetic targets essential for cellfunction in bacteria and fungi.

Cubist's programs are based on targets that are responsible for theaddition or charging of amino acids to tRNA molecules by enzymesknown as aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, (the Synthetase Program),cleavage of immature tRNA to form mature tRNA prior to itscharging with amino acids by the enzyme ribonuclease P (theRibonuclease P Program), modification of the amino acid glutamateto glutamine on incorrectly charged tRNAs by the enzymeaminotransferase (the Aminotransferase Program) and transport ofamino acid-charged tRNA molecules to the site of protein synthesisby elongation factors (the Elongation Factors Program).

Another collaboration for Cubist is an agreement with Merck & Co.,of Whitehouse Station, N.J., to discover antibacterial drug candidatesfrom leads detected in the screening of Merck's compound libraryagainst three of Cubist's aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase targets. Thisdeal is worth $20.5 million to Cubist and, in addition, the companywill receive royalties.

Cubist is also collaborating with Pfizer Inc., of New York, todiscover antibacterial drug candidates from leads detected in thescreening of Pfizer's compound library against six of Cubist'saminoacyl-tRNA synthetase targets. This collaboration is worth$21.5 million to Cubist and included a $5 million equity investment.

Assuming all of these collaborations continue until their expirations,and, the company said, if a separate drug is successfully developedand commercialized, Cubist will be entitled to receive a total of $98.5million in research support payments, licensing fees, milestonepayments and equity investments. Royalties will be additional.

For the six months ending June 30, 1996, Cubist had assets of $10.3Million and cash, cash equivalents and investments of $4.7 Million.

Cubist stock (NASDAQ:CBST) closed Monday at $6, up $0.250. n

-- Frances Bishopp

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.