IN DRUG DISCOVERY EFFORTSmithKline Beecham and the David Sarnoff Research Center signeda letter of intent for a collaboration that would create a drug-discovery "laboratory on a chip," a SmithKline Beecham spokesmansaid Friday.

Sarnoff, a Princeton, N.J. company that focuses on electronicimaging, will hold a majority stake in a spin-off company, which willcarry out combinatorial synthesis of molecules as well as screeningfor biological activity, all on a computer chip. SmithKline Beecham,of Philadelphia, will hold a minority stake and get a "substantialperiod" of exclusive access in the human pharmaceutical field todevices coming from the collaboration.

Sarnoff will provide research facilities for the new company.SmithKline Beecham will fund the research and provide its expertisein synthetic chemistry. Financial terms of the proposal were notdisclosed.

Richard Koenig, SmithKline Beecham's director of communicationsprograms, told BioWorld the idea isn't disease-specific at this point."It's a way to take advantage of a new technology that we believecould be very important for [broad-based] drug discovery into the21st century."

Sarnoff is a for-profit subsidiary of SRI International, a non-profitresearch and consulting institute in Menlo Park, Calif.

Each device, or computer chip, will be designed to carry outthousands of chemical experiments. The chip will be designed tosimultaneously synthesize molecules and measure their reactivitywith molecules from the body that are drug targets. _ Jim Shrine

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