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Ecopia, Kosan Pen Microbial Sequencing Deal

NEW YORK, Oct 20 – Just two days after its birth as a spin off from Theratechnologies, microbial genomics company Ecopia BioSciences said Friday it had signed a microbial sequencing deal with Kosan BioSciences.

Under the agreement, Ecopia will apply its genomics platform in order to discover the genes of a particular microorganism that direct the synthesis of an undisclosed small molecule, which is of interest to Kosan.

The term of the agreement is six months or less, and financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

But the company has greater plans than simply being a sequencing services provider. “In the short, short, short term we will do agreements like we did with Kosan,” said Ecopia   chief financial officer Gary Littlejohn.

As for the long, long, long term? Ecopia hopes to derive revenue from microbial genomic databases, and even its own drug development, said Littlejohn.

Equipped with two ABI 3700 sequencers, Ecopia sequences microorganisms and then through bioinformatic analysis finds the genes that produce a broad range of therapeutic molecule candidates that the company plans to leverage for big pharma collaborations.

  “Environmental microorganisms are very much the most popular source of life saving drugs such as antibiotics, anti-cancer agents, and immunosupressants. And it’s the molecules that these bacteria secrete that pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies look for because they are the basis of potential drug leads,” said Littlejohn.  

So far Ecopia’s proreitary technologies have amassed about a thousand genes and identified over 40 relevant loci, said Littlejohn.

“We’ve been able to build a reference database and the more genes we find the more predictive value we have and the stronger our bulk bioinformatics becomes. So that’s really the part of the company that really drives our value and brings value-added to our potential clients,” he said.

As the database grows, Ecopia will be looking for deals in which it provides access to pharmaceutical and biotech companies in exchange for licensing fees and royalties for drug sales. A thousand new genes a month, 20 to 30 loci a month, will be added to the database, Littlejohn said.

“And finally we hope to come up with our own molecules, we hope to patent the molecules and the loci that are responsible for manufacturing them—and that’s going to be ultimate shareholder payoff,” said Littlejohn.

Peter Nowacki, who heads the company’s seven-person bioinformatics division, said he is looking to double the division’s staff in six to eight months. About 70 percent of the software is developed in-house, Nowacki said. Sun supplies all of the company’s hardware.

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