Cadus Pharmaceutical Corp. announced Tuesday that it haslicensed exclusive worldwide rights to key drug discoverytechnologies based on signal-transducing G protein receptorsfrom Duke University of Durham, N.C.

The technology centers on the finding that these receptors canbe isolated individually, incorporated into yeast cells andfunction biochemically -- thus providing a bio-functional assayto screen for potential drugs and therapeutic compounds. Cadusand Duke will cooperate on research to optimize the screeningsystems. Moreover, Cadus intends to seek potential corporatepartners for specific applications of the technology, includingresearch and development on drugs to treat cardiovascular andinflammatory diseases.

The human G protein receptors constitute "a huge class ofreceptors, many of which have been shown to havephysiological roles," explained Jeremy Levin, president andchief executive officer of Cadus of New York. Many of thereceptors have been studied per se as targets for agonistsor antagonists, Levin added.

"What we have managed to do is to dissect out the whole classof G protein receptors one by one and plug them at will intoyeast," he continued. "This allows us to detect whether thehuman receptor is functioning."

This works because "as compounds bind to receptors andactivate the G protein, the yeast's cellular processes, such ascell growth or enzyme production, are activated or enhanced,"said Robert Taber, director of Duke University's office ofscience and technology.

The intention, Levin said, is to demonstrate whether any one(putative pharmacologic) agent can "strike the signaltransduction pathway" -- at the level of the receptor, or at thelevel of the G protein and the receptor or at the level of theprotein's three polypeptide chains. "This approach offers usmultiple new targets for drug discovery."

Levin told BioWorld that the researchers will first use thescreen on small organic molecules derived from both a"purpose-built library we own" as well as "acquired libraries"from potential partners with a shared interest. "Initially wewill look at receptors important in rheumatoid arthritis,inflammatory bowel disease, some hematopoietic entities andcoagulation," Levin said.

Cadus is a privately held company formed in March 1992 as aspinoff of ImClone Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:IMCL). It received acash infusion from ImClone at the time, but remains "acompletely independent entity from ImClone," Levin toldBioWorld.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

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

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