Tularik Inc., a privately held gene regulation company, signed aresearch collaboration with Tokyo-based Taisho Pharmaceutical Co.Ltd. to develop small molecule compounds for treatment of immunesystem disorders.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. It is the fourth majorcollaboration for the South San Francisco-based company, which wasfounded in December 1991 and includes former executives ofGenentech Inc., also of South San Francisco.

James Gower, president and CEO of Tularik, said his firm has raised$38 million, not including the deal with Taisho, and the fourcorporate alliances this year will cover 80 percent of Tularik's cashburn rate.

Tularik was formed, Gower said, to develop smallmolecules that will affect the regulatory pathways for genes.

In addition to Taisho, Tularik has corporate partnerships with Merck& Co., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical Co.Ltd., of Tokyo, and Sumitomo Pharmaceuticals Co. Ltd., of Osaka.

In the agreements, Gower said, Tularik has retained North Americanand European rights to most of its potential products.

Susan Rogers, spokeswoman for Tularik, said the company hasassembled a library of more than 100,000 chemical compounds andnatural product extracts, which it is screening against itscollaborators' libraries.

The agreement with Taisho, she said, will focus on drugs targetingimmune system disorders ranging from allergies to autoimmunediseases.

The Yamanouchi collaboration targets cell adhesion for inflammationwhile the Merck partnership concentrates on viral diseases. TheSumitomo deal focuses on regulation of the low density lipoproteinreceptor gene for treating high blood pressure.

Gower said Genentech provided some of the initial financing forTularik and owns less than 5 percent. Of the $38 million in equity, hesaid, about $32 million comes from institutional investment groupsand the remainder was contributed by corporate partners. The Taishoagreement involves no equity investment.

Rogers said Tularik has not yet identified any product leads in itscollaborations. "We're still in the very active assay stage," she said."We're looking at a number of candidates."

Tularik's approach, she said, has been to fully explore generegulation prior to advancing a compound to animal studies.

"We're running multiple assays to understand what's going on," shesaid. "Once we understand the bioactivity we'll take it into theclinic." n

-- Charles Craig

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