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UPDATE: LifeSpan Biosciences Licenses Protein Database to Merck

NEW YORK, Jan 23 - LifeSpan BioSciences of Seattle said Tuesday it has licensed its G protein coupled receptor expression and location database to Merck.

GPCRs are protein molecules on the surfaces of cells that serve as receptors for many compounds, including pharmaceuticals. Merck, which will use this database for drug target identification and validation, will have access to GPCR localization data as it is added to the database, LifeSpan said. The parties did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

" GPCRs are particularly important because they’re the source of about half the drugs in the current pharmacopeia,” said Michael Tippie, vice president of business development at LifeSpan. “They’re also a good place to look for new drugs. The idea is to try and find a novel expression pattern by looking at the whole class of molecules at once.”

Lifespan’s database profiles GPCR expression in human diseases by integrating public DNA and protein sequence data with analysis of high-resolution digital photomicrograms of protein expression in normal and diseased tissues, including colon, breast, lung, kidney, adrenal gland, mast cells, brain stem, skeletal muscle, and small intestine. The database will eventually include up to 320 GPCR’s and immunohistochemical information about their tissue expression, according to LifeSpan.

Merck is the third major pharmaceutical company to obtain access to this database, which costs “in the millions,” according to Tippie. Novartis Research Foundation and Pfizer also have subscriptions.

LifeSpan expects to announce another subscription deal next week, and is currently negotiating with four pharmaceutical companies, Tippie said.

Meanwhile, the company is closing a $30-million round of financing and is planning to work on another protein database. The company’s long term plans include introducing a new database every six months, according to Tippie. Possible databases include cancer expression profiles, kinases, phosphatases, and ion channels.

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