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UPDATE: Syrrx Finds First Pharma Partner in Cubist Pharmaceuticals

NEW YORK, June 27 - Syrrx and Cubist Pharmaceuticals have entered a deal to jointly develop potential antibiotic drugs, the companies said Tuesday.  

The deal represents the first collaboration with a pharmaceutical company for San Diego, Calif.-based Syrrx. The company currently has several other relationships to develop its technology platform for determining protein structures.

The arrangement with Cambridge, Mass.-based Cubist calls for an undisclosed equity investment in Syrrx, and, in return, Syrrx will attempt to determine the three-dimensional structures of Cubist’s protein drug targets. These targets are derived from bacterial and fungal genes and number about 150 in total, said Nathaniel David, Syrrx’s director of business development.

Once Syrrx has resolved the protein structures, the two companies will work together to design the small-molecule inhibitors for the targets, using the companies’ computational capabilities for structure-based drug design. 

The two companies will also jointly decide which targets will move forward into the laboratory to develop small-molecule drugs using medicinal chemistry. As part of the agreement, Cubist will have exclusive rights to develop certain protein targets, and Syrrx will have exclusive rights for certain other protein targets. In other cases, the two companies will have joint rights to any pharmaceutical that results from the partnership. The two companies did not explain under what circumstances ownership would be assigned.

The deal also includes a reciprocal royalty arrangement, in which each partner with a successful pharmaceutical product must pay royalties to the other.

Other than the initial equity investment in Syrrx, Cubist's milestone payments are all "success-based," according to a spokeswoman, and are paid when Syrrx successfully determines a protein’s structure. Cubist will make additional payments if Cubist can use the protein targets Syrrx has studied to develop successful pharmaceuticals. 

Cubist decided to partner with Syrrx because of “the proven success record of the scientific founders,” said Jennifer LaVin, senior director for corporate communications at Cubist, and because the company’s technology extended beyond just protein crystallization and structure determination to include computational capabilities for structure-based drug design. Syrrx was founded in 1999 by Peter Schultz, the director of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation; Raymond Stevens, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute; and David, the director of business development.

In addition, Syrrx is also looking to build its medicinal chemistry and drug development capabilities, said David, and hopes to have the ability to synthesize small-molecule compounds by April of next year.

Cubist has a market capitalization of $925 million. A Cubist spokeswoman said that the company's investment in Syrrx was not large, but that the investment "shows we have a lot of confidence in Syrrx."     
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