Procept Inc. and Chiron Corp. entered into a collaboration Thursdayin which Procept will use Chiron's combinatorial chemistrytechnology to identify a lead compound against an undisclosedimmune system disease.Chiron will design, construct and eliver a library, at which timeProcept will make an undisclosed payment, Procept's president andCEO, Stanley Erck, told BioWorld. The deal also involvesmilestone payments and royalties on sales of products that come outof the agreement. Procept would develop and retain rights to thecompounds.It's the third major collaboration for Cambridge, Mass.-basedProcept, which uses rational drug design techniques to developmolecules that bind to certain T cell receptor proteins. Procept hasongoing research agreements with Swiss-based Sandoz Pharma develop small-molecule drugs to treat life-threatening immunesystem disorders; and with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York,on developing core technology around T cell antigen receptors, fortreating specific autoimmune diseases.Erck said the Chiron deal doesn't conflict with the othercollaborations."Chiron has demonstrated the ability to generate lead compoundsthat are drug-like," Erck said. "The hits that come out will be veryamenable to being named a lead compound with little modification,have the potential for oral availability and be more stable than otherapproaches," which include the generation of peptides that requireconsiderable modification.Chiron's libraries are composed of peptoids, which aremetabolically stable analogues of peptides. "We have the ability togenerate thousands of compounds much quicker than mostconventional technologies," Kimberly Kraemer, manager, corporatecommunications for Chiron, told BioWorld. "We try to findcompanies that have complementary strengths in a particularbiological area of interest, and then use our libraries and theirtargets to select a new compound that might have potential as atherapeutic."Erck said the design and construction of a library has begun, and heexpects to screen the library over the next year to come up with leadcompounds. He said the agreement now covers one target area, onespecific receptor. While not disclosing the target, he said "it's animportant immune system disease for which there are currently noeffective drugs."Combining each company's expertise, and adding Procept'sknowledge of chemical fragments, "should result in the highestprobability that a lead compound will be generated which bindstightly and specifically to Procept's receptor target," Erck said."This will give us virtually unlimited numbers of compounds toscreen as drug leads."Procept's stock (NASDAQ:PRCT) gained 44 cents, or 15 percent,Thursday, closing at $3.38 per share. Chiron's stock(NASDAQ:CHIR) lost 75 cents to close at $62 a share. n

-- Jim Shrine

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