ImmunoPharmaceutics Inc. (IPI) has entered into a researchand development collaboration with the Japanesepharmaceutical company Eisai Co. Ltd. that could be worth upto $11 million to IPI.

The companies intend to develop a new class of drugs to treatcertain important -- and unnamed -- cardiovascular diseases.

IPI of San Diego, which is a 43 percent owned affiliate ofSynbiotics Corp. (NASDAQ:SBIO), will receive funding of $8million to $11 million, the bulk of which consists of staged R&Dpayments and one product development milestone, explainedEdward Maggio, IPI's chief executive officer. Additionally, theagreement contains certain worldwide marketing provisions,and IPI will receive royalties from Eisai's worldwidecommercialization of any resulting drugs.

IPI's focus is on developing orally active, small molecule drugsfrom pharmacologically active proteins. The company, whichwas formed in 1989, accomplishes that conversion viastructure-based drug design technology based onsupercomputational algorithms used in conjunction withphysical chemical techniques (including X-ray crystallographyand nuclear magnetic resonance) as well as genetic expressionand manipulation of the proteins or peptides.

IPI scientists have used the technology to construct a receptorantagonist to the small protein endothelin, which is the mostpotent naturally occurring vasoconstrictor known. It's beenshown to play a role in a number of disease processes,including hypertension, myocardial infarction and acute renalfailure.

Most of these data come from animal models, but there iscircumstantial evidence of endothelin's effects on hypertensionin humans. The researchers started with the pharmacologicallyactive peptide, extracted the three-dimensional structuralcoordinates of the pharmacophore and used that information tocreate the low molecular weight non-peptide (IPI 413) thatbinds to an endothelin receptor subtype at nanomolarconcentrations.

"We've proved what we can do with endothelin," Maggio toldBioWorld. "That was a major factor in Eisai's decision toproceed" with the collaboration. Although the companies aren'tdisclosing exactly what their target is within the field ofcardiovascular diseases, Maggio told BioWorld that itrepresents "a major clinical problem for which there is no drugtherapy at the present time."

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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