Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is developing compounds toinhibit protein synthesis in pathogens, on Friday signed its first majorcorporate collaboration.

Pfizer Inc. is making an up-front license payment and will fundresearch at Cubist, as well as making milestone and royalty payments.In return it gets worldwide rights to market antibacterial agentsresulting from the collaboration.

As the work progresses, Pfizer will have an option to make an equityinvestment. It also would be responsible for all clinical development,manufacturing and marketing.

The companies will attempt to discover broad-spectrum antibacterialagents directed toward specific aminoacyl-transfer RNA synthetasetargets that are active against resistant pathogens.

"We bring to Pfizer unique biomolecular targets that are essential forthe survival of a pathogenic organism," said Scott Rocklage,president and CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Cubist. "They bring arich and diverse chemical library to screen for activity against thosesynthetase targets."

Specific terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

Cubist's antibacterial and antifungal technology attacks thetranslation phase of protein production. That occurs in the cell'scytoplasm, where amino acids are assembled into proteins based onsequences specified by messenger RNA.

Cubist is developing compounds to prevent the enzymes, calledaminoacyl tRNA synthetases, from assembling the amino acidsduring translation. That disruption is designed to lead to cell death inthe pathogenic organism and not interfere with the correspondinghuman enzyme.

Rocklage said the deal with New York-based Pfizer encompassesonly a fraction of the biomolecular targets Cubist has developed.Within aminoacyl synthetases there are a wealth of targets, 20 perorganism, he said. The Pfizer deal, he said, is target-specific, notpathogen-specific. Also, the collaboration does not give Pfizer accessto Cubist's chemistry program, where leads are being developed totreat the same pathogens.

The types of pathogens involved could include Staphylococcusaureus, Enterococcus species and Streptococcus pneumoniae, whichare resistant to many antibiotics.

Rocklage said phase I of the collaboration covers early stageresearch. In phase II that research will be turned into identification oflead compounds. At phase II is where Pfizer would have the option ofmaking an equity investment.

"It's Pfizer's expertise in high-throughput screening and the ability todo that in an efficient fashion that brings value to this deal beyond thefinancial value," Rocklage said. "There's a big synergistic value forboth Cubist and Pfizer."

Privately held Cubist was formed in 1993. It has had two $9 millionrounds of financing, the latest in May 1995. (See BioWorld Today,May 19, 1995, p. 4.) n

-- Jim Shrine

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