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Cellzome Drives Toward Product Development With Purchase of Glaxo Unit

NEW YORK, Sept. 27 – Privately held Cellzome has acquired GlaxoSmithKline’s proteomic unit Cell Map as it continues to tighten its focus on product development and commercialization, the company said on Thursday.

Cellzome, a small functional proteomics firm based in Heidelberg, Germany, hopes to take advantage of Cell Map’s experience with biological and pharmaceutical research and combine it with its own large-scale proteomics technology to study neurobiological therapeutics, Cellzome said.

Terms of the agreement, signed on Sept. 5 but announced today, call for UK-based GlaxoSmithKline to become a minority shareholder of Cellzome. 

Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed. 

“This acquisition represents an expansion of Cellzome's core capabilities [and] a major milestone in Cellzome's mission,” the company said in a statement. “GSK's Cell Map team brings existing collaborations focused on important therapeutic areas, direct pharma R&D expertise, and access to complementary intellectual property and know-how.” 

In an interview, Charles Cohen, Cellzome’s president and CEO, said that the acquisition “is part of our effort to shorten the time it takes to validate lead compounds and move toward the development of drugs.”

Under the deal, an undisclosed number of Glaxo scientists will move to a new research facility that Cellzome has set up north of London, where Glaxo currently has its home base. No layoffs will result from the acquisition, according to Cohen.

“On the contrary,” he said. “We took all the people [at Glaxo] we had access to.”

The facility is scheduled to open for business on Oct. 1, Cohen said. It occupies roughly 25,000 square feet and will employ 25 scientists by the end of the year, and 50 scientists by the end of 2002, he added. 

Although “there will be some overlap with what we do in Heidelberg, there is going to be a primary focus [at the new facility] to develop Cell Map’s technology for neurobiology,” Cohen said. Specifically, Cellzome will study the mechanism of action of currently marketed drugs to “establish a much more complete molecular context in which these drugs operate.”

He could not say what areas of neurobiology his research will cover, but hinted that potential targets include neuropsychiatry, pain, and migraine.

Allen Roses, senior vice president of genetics research at GlaxoSmithKline, said in the statement: “Combining the strengths and expertise of our two companies through this relationship will help speed the drug discovery process by improving the selection and validation processes.” 

“Having this expertise will enable us to overcome a major bottleneck in the area of biological validation of targets,” he added.

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