Sibia Neurosciences Inc. entered a collaboration with Cognetix study peptide compounds the latter has derived from venom ofmarine snails for use as drugs to treat central nervous system (CNS)disorders.

Sibia, which went public in May 1996, discovers drug compoundsthat act on nerve cell receptors and ion channels involved in a varietyof CNS functions. The receptors and ion channels control cellularcalcium levels which affect such activities as cognition, motor controland memory.

The company is targeting three classes of receptors and ion channels:nicotinic acetylcholine (NAChR), excitatory amino acid (EAAR)receptors and voltage-gated calcium (VGCC) channels. The companyhas developed functional cell-based assays to screen compounds forpotential therapeutic activity for treatment of a broad range of CNSdisorders, such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy,pain and schizophrenia.

Cognetix, of Salt Lake City, has a collection of 130 molecules, calledconopeptides, derived from cone snails' venom and is developingmore compounds from among the hundreds of different varieties ofthe marine gastropod. The snails are found along Australia's GreatBarrier Reef and use their venom to kill fish.

Peptides derived from the toxin already are proving effective. NeurexCorp., of Menlo Park, Calif., has developed a compound, SNX-111,for treatment of pain and the drug is in Phase III studies for cancerand AIDS patients.

Cognetix's vice president for research and development, TylerMcCabe, said conopeptides are considered more effective for CNSdisorders than compounds derived from snake, scorpion or spidertoxins. Peptides from those organisms are longer, making them lessstable, less bioavailable and less selective in targeting specificreceptor types.

The collaboration with Sibia is privately held Cognetix's first majoralliance, McCabe said. Initially, the two companies will screencompounds for activity against NAChRs and VGCCs. Financialterms were not disclosed.

Michael Dunn, Sibia's vice president of business development, saidthe alliance gives his company access to additional potential drugcandidates.

Sibia has its own drug development program targeting NAChRs withcompounds that are receptor agonists to treat Parkinson's disease andother disorders such as dementia and schizophrenia.

The company also has collaborations with Eli Lilly and Co., ofIndianapolis, and Ciba-Geigy Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, which ismerging with fellow Basel drug maker Sandoz Ltd.

Ciba is screening its compounds against Sibia's EAARs for discoveryof receptor antagonists to treat epilepsy and the brain damagingeffects of stroke and head trauma. Lilly is looking for compounds thatare antagonists to VGCCs for treatment of pain, epilepsy and theeffects of stroke. n

-- Charles Craig

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