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New Drug Co. Will Commercialize Academic Research Discoveries

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BALTIMORE--A new drug discovery and development company here, Lion Pharmaceuticals Inc., was officially launched earlier this month to capitalize on molecular and genomic inventions emerging from major research universities. Lion's first contractual relationship is with Johns Hopkins University.

Under terms of the arrangement, Lion will gain access to discoveries in genomic and disease-associated molecular targets for the pursuit of small-molecule drugs, allowing Lion to avoid some of the heavy R&D costs incurred by many biotech startups, noted Robert Curtis, Lion's founder and CEO. Lion will add value to the university discoveries by identifying and optimizing the best pharmaceutical targets that emerge the basic research, he added.

Other key Lion staff are Michael Antonaccio, chief scientific officer, and Robert Smith, vice-president of chemistry. Curtis had previously been an executive with combinatorial chemistry companies and also worked in the pharmaceutical industry. Antonaccio previously worked for Human Genome Sciences and Bristol Myers Squibb, while Smith's background was with Merck.

The new company is backed by Anthem Capital, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, and the City of Baltimore. Johns Hopkins also has an equity position.

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