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UPDATE: Signature BioSciences Acquires Cambridge Discovery Chemistry

This article has been updated from a previous version.

NEW YORK, July 16 - Signature BioScience has acquired Cambridge Discovery Chemistry (CDC) from Millennium Pharmaceuticals, filling the company's need for chemists who can design small molecule drugs, Signature CEO Mark McDade told GenomeWeb Monday. 

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed, but as part of Signature, CDC will perform contract research designing compounds against Millennium targets for the next two years, said Signature BioScience CEO Mark McDade. 

In addition, CDC will continue its drug design collaborations with its other three pharmaceutical partners, who remain undisclosed. McDade said he expected to integrate CDC's Richmond, Calif.-based operations with Signature's protein interaction analysis technology over the next six to nine months.

"This acquisition brings us the capabilities to build very focused small molecule compounds," said McDade. "Rather than taking a year or two to build our own capabilities, [with this acquisition] we get them overnight."

Signature's drug discovery technology is based on multipole coupling spectroscopy, a technique that uses microwaves to study protein function and drug-protein interactions.

Millennium had acquired CDC, based in Richmond, Calif., as part of its acquisition of UK-based Cambridge Discovery Limited, the parent company of CDC in July 2000. Millennium will continue to operate Cambridge Discovery Chemistry Limited as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Millennium could not be immediately reached for comment, but the company may have been willing to sell CDC because the company's West Coast capabilites duplicated those at its UK parent, according to McDade.

Last Monday, Signature completed a $43 million fourth round of private financing, pledging the money towards building the company's drug discovery infrastructure. With the acquisition of CDC, Signature adds 24 chemists, and CDC's chemistry laboratory to its resources.

But McDade said he was not worried about the acquisition significantly impacting the company's available cash. The company is planning to build additional resources by hiring biologists and developing screening assays and protein expression capabilities, McDade added.

Signature is still working to select the optimal types of protein targets to study with its MCS technology McDade said, but the company would most likely initially target G-protein coupled receptors, in addition to other targets. 

"By the end of the summer we expect to have a better idea [of which classes of protein targets to investigate]," he said. "We're a young company, and [drug] discovery is only three months old."

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