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MDS Proteomics is Ready for Big Pharma, Executive Says

NEW YORK, June 21 - After building its proteomics platform with the help of IBM, Agilent, and other technology providers, MDS Proteomics is ready to start partnering with pharmaceutical companies who will pay MDS Proteomics for its services, chief business officer Caroline Popper told GenomeWeb.

"Our partnering strategy was to make the platform robust," she said. "And now we're ready to put in the product relationships, and we're heavily in negotiations with major pharmaceutical companies."

In fact, Popper said that MDS Proteomics expects to announce its first "customer-based" partnership next week, in the area of antibody therapeutics. The two companies would share equally in the opportunity to develop drugs using the protein targets MDS Proteomics provides, she said.

"You'll see that the relationship we announce next week is essentially a 50/50 relationship, so they take advantage of 50 percent of the targets and we get the other 50 percent," Popper said.

The company is also negotiating with partners who would pay MDS Proteomics to identify targets for protein therapies and small molecule drugs, Popper added. 

But MDS Proteomics hasn't finished building up its capabilities, in drug development or proteomics. In addition to scientists at the company's Toronto headquarters, who are focusing on cellular pathway and cell signaling, MDS Proteomics also has an operation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has a working relationship with Don Hunt, a biological mass spectrometry expert at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville.

Popper would not comment on the role Hunt would play within MDS Proteomics because the relationship has not been made public.

In a separate interview, MDS Proteomics chief scientific officer, Matthias Mann, told GenomeWeb that the company has early access to the Fourier transform mass spectrometry technology that Hunt is developing for studying proteins, and that former Hunt lab members had joined MDS Proteomics at its Charlottesville facility.

To augment its ability to turn protein targets into therapeutics, MDS Proteomics is also seeking out partnerships with medical institutions and other clinical centers to help the company direct its proteomics efforts at important medical problems, Popper said. The company has one such relationship with the Partners HealthCare, a healthcare provider in Boston. 

And over the next 18 months, the company--like many others--is also looking to boost its chemistry capabilities for designing small molecule drugs to inhibit the function of proteins the company identifies. MDS Proteomics is currently building a chemistry group at a facility outside Boston, Popper said, but added that "we recognize that this is a core competence of other chemistry-focused companies, and we would certainly be amenable to partnering with them around what they do best."

"In the context of being a drug discovery and development company, chemistry is obviously extremely important, and this is not a core competence that we currently have in sufficient scale," she added. "In order to truly have a product focus--as opposed to an information or database focus--we need chemistry."

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