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Amylin Pharmaceuticals Buys $10M Stake In BioSeek, Pens Drug-Discovery Alliance

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BioSeek this week said that Amylin Pharmaceuticals has bought a $10 million stake in the company, and that the firms have penned a joint research collaboration to discover and develop treatments for inflammatory conditions.
 
Encouraged by the success of its previous collaboration with BioSeek, Amylin would like to help the company evolve from a fee-for-service shop into a drug discovery company, according to Michael Hanley, vice president of discovery research for Amylin.
 
Terms of the alliance call for privately held BioSeek to use its BioMAP screening system to evaluate the potential of Amylin’s polypeptide hormone library Phormol to yield peptide therapeutics for inflammatory conditions.
 
BioSeek will pay Amylin royalties and milestones in exchange for the right to select and exclusively license two resultant peptides that it would then optimize and develop for therapeutic indications outside of Amylin’s core focus.
 
BioSeek is also eligible to receive royalties from Amylin if the drug maker develops or licenses an additional limited set of peptides for uses identified in the collaboration.
 
The agreement builds on a screening collaboration the companies penned last year. According to Hanley, the company entered into the 2006 deal because it wanted to see how BioSeek’s technology would determine if its peptide library contained potential anti-inflammatory agents. And the answer was a resounding yes, he said.
 
First Time for Everything
BioSeek CEO Peter Staple said that although his company has signed similar agreements in the past, the Amylin alliance is the first that has included a capital investment.
 
He said the company would likely use the $10 million to identify and develop new product development programs, and would likely seek to raise additional financing when it identifies such programs.  
 
Why BioMAP?
 
BioSeek’s screening platform consists of in vitro cell-based models of various diseases with a primary focus on inflammatory and autoimmune processes, including asthma, arthritis, psoriasis, and potentially some fibrotic diseases. The platform database contains profiles of many known compounds and their behavior in cells.
 
Staple said that researchers using BioSeek can rapidly screen a large number of compounds and look for the behavior they know will be effective against the disease. BioSeek will screen Amylin’s peptides and look for active molecules. BioSeek scientists will follow up by profiling these active peptides to further narrow down those that are of the greatest interest.
 
“The important thing about our process is that we do not start looking for activity against a certain target,” Staple said. “Instead, we are looking for activity in biomarkers that are known to be important in the disease.”
 

“The important thing about our process is that…we are looking for activity in biomarkers that are known to be important in the disease.”

Staple said that unlike most in vitro assay systems, which try to engineer out inherent biological complexity to simplify data generation and interpretation, BioMAP deliberately captures this biological complexity. The platform does so by using human cells, primary cells, and activating the cells to replicate the disease state being studied, he said.
 
He said the platform uses these cell types in combination to see how they interact with each other as they do in the body. In this way researchers can see more of a tissue-level response, as opposed to single cell-level response, Staple said.
 
Staple said BioSeek has two revenue sources: It uses the BioMAP technology to help drug makers screen compounds and to generate compounds that may be either developed in the future or out-licensed.
 
Hanley said that Amylin’s investment will support this long-term goal by ensuring that BioSeek does not have to look for additional funding in the foreseeable future.
 
He declined to disclose what percentage of BioSeek Amylin now owns.
 
Staple said that BioSeek has always planned on generating revenue from internal drug discovery, and the agreement with Amylin represents a major step forward in that direction.

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