Triplex Pharmaceutical Corp. said Tuesday that it has enteredinto its first corporate partnership, a five-year agreement withHoechst A.G. worth up to $30 million to develop novel anti-viral drugs based on Triplex's triple helix technology.

Triple helix compounds are designed to prevent the body frommanufacturing disease-causing proteins by sabotaging proteinassembly at the gene level. By binding to targeted portions ofthe DNA double helix, compounds form a triple helix thatprevents the targeted genes from passing on necessaryinformation for protein synthesis.

Under the research and development collaboration, Hoechst ofFrankfurt, Germany, has paid an undisclosed up-front fee toTriplex and will fund R&D and make milestone payments, for atotal of up to $30 million.

Hoechst has the right to license for development compoundsdiscovered under the collaboration, as well as worldwidemarketing and manufacturing rights. Triplex has retained anoption to manufacture and co-market products in the UnitedStates.

In addition, The Woodlands, Texas, company will receiveroyalties on Hoechst sales of licensed products. Hoechst also hasan option to purchase equity in Triplex.

Privately held Triplex has focused its initial research on viralinfections, particularly herpes simplex 1 and 2, and HIV. TheHoechst agreement covers herpes and a limited number ofother viral indications, said Triplex President John Chubb.Early-stage candidate compounds are in in vitro testing.

Triplex has retained for itself development of triple helixcompounds to treat HIV, as well as other viral indications. Thecompany is doing toxicological and pharmacokinetic studies ofcandidate anti-HIV compounds in animals. Longer term, Triplexplans to develop drugs to treat certain oncogene-associatedcancers.

Triplex's work on triple helix complements work already underway at Hoechst on nucleic acid therapeutics directed atimmunologic and viral diseases, said Chubb. "We envision thatin the partnership we will focus on triple helix and Hoechst willwork on antisense. They just want to make sure they cover thewaterfront," Chubb told BioWorld.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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