SAN DIEGO -- Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Wednesdaythat it is reaching out to Houghten Pharmaceuticals Inc. for useof a peptide screening technology to help develop therapeuticsto treat Type 2 diabetes.

Amylin is not alone in seeking out Houghten Pharmaceuticals.Privately held HPI is already helping Bayer AG's MilesLaboratories hone in on potential drugs in the anti-viral fieldand recently signed with Procter & Gamble for work on oralhealth care products.

For those pondering Houghten's next move, company founderRichard Houghten suggests staying tuned. HPI expects to tie upanother collaboration in about six weeks and two more beforethe end of the year.

"The science can sometimes be done in less time than it takesto do the legal documents and the press release," saidHoughten, HPI's president and chief executive officer. Hefounded HPI (formerly Iterex Pharmaceuticals) in 1990 afterworking in the research institute of the Scripps Clinic.

Specific terms of the agreement with Amylin were notdisclosed, but they do provide HPI with an initial payment anda royalty on resulting products. Amylin receivedmanufacturing and marketing rights to such products.

HPI offers its peptide libraries, comprising nearly 500 millioncompounds, to its collaborative partners, which search forpeptides with specific biological actions. In addition tocollaborations, HPI is working in-house on several undisclosedprojects that could lead to anti-microbial and anti-viral drugs,and cell adhesion applications that could have uses in thecardiovascular field, Houghten said.

Peptides, which are sequences of amino acids, performessential tasks in conveying information between the cells ofmammalian systems and are therefore a promising area fordrug development. However, the enormous variety of theiramino acid sequences creates a need for efficient approaches topeptide screening. Companies pursuing the field include thewell-funded Affymax N.V., Selectide, Optein, Chiron Corp.'sProtose unit and Arraid.

"If you have a biologically active peptide and start makinganalogs, there's no reason to believe that the initial sequence isoptimal" for a given purpose, Houghten said. Peptide screeninggives researchers the tools to review the actions of all relatedpeptide sequences, he said. "It's rational drug discovery vs.rational drug design."

Under the agreement with Amylin (NASDAQ:AMLN), Houghtenis to provide libraries of synthetic peptide combinations, whichAmylin will screen in search of amylin antagonists that couldbe useful therapeutics for treating type 2 diabetes.

The pancreatic hormone amylin is believed to act with insulinto regulate carbohydrate metabolism. An excess of amylin isthought to contribute to the hyperglycemia (high blood sugarlevel) in some diabetics. The company, which took its namefrom the hormone, is developing amylin antagonists and othernovel approaches to treating diabetes and obesity.

-- Ray Potter Senior Editor

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