Alanex Corp., a combinatorial chemistry company, entered its secondcollaboration in four months with Roche Bioscience to discoversmall-molecule compounds for treatment of pain.

The deal with Roche Bioscience, a research unit of Basel,Switzerland-based Roche Holding Ltd., follows an April 1996agreement between Alanex, of San Diego, and Novo Nordisk A/S, ofBagsvaerd, Denmark, for discovery of compounds to treat diabetes.

Alanex has a third corporate partnership with Astra AB, ofSodertlje, Sweden, also aimed at developing pain relief drugs.

In all three collaborations, privately held Alanex applies itscombinatorial chemistry to find small-molecule compounds forspecific G protein-coupled receptor targets provided by thepharmaceutical companies.

G protein-coupled receptors are involved in most cell functions.Hundreds of G protein-coupled receptors have been discovered andthousands more have yet to be identified.

Although Roche Bioscience, of Palo Alto, Calif., and Astra arefocusing on pain medications, the receptor targets are different, saidEdward Baracchini, director of business development and strategicplanning.

Financial terms of the three-year Roche deal were not disclosed.Alanex will receive a up-front initiation fee, research funding,milestone payments and royalties. Roche, in turn, will have exclusivemarketing and manufacturing rights for compounds developed fromthe collaboration.

Roche also has a 90-day option to use Alanex's technology for drugdiscovery on a second receptor target linked to either pain or urinarytract disorders.

Baracchini said Alanex differs from other combinatorial chemistrycompanies by integrating the technology with high-throughputscreening, computational chemistry and medicinal chemistry to createdrug candidates that are ready for preclinical trials.

"Most [combinatorial chemistry] companies provide a hit,"Baracchini said, referring to a compound that affects a receptor, "andthe drug company takes it over to do the medicinal chemistry. We notonly get the hit, we convert it into a drug candidate."

In the collaboration with Astra, which began in late 1994, Alanex wasable to select a lead drug candidate that is orally bioavailable andefficacious in several animal models within 13 months, Baracchiniobserved.

He added the Novo Nordisk partnership began in late 1995 andAlanex has identified several potential lead compounds.

Alanex, founded in 1991, also was working with Amgen Inc., ofThousand Oaks, Calif., in 1994, but that agreement, focused onneurological disorders, was discontinued. In addition to regainingrights to compounds identified in that collaboration, Alanexrepurchased the equity stake acquired by Amgen. n

-- Charles Craig

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