PRINCETON, N.J.—Inthe latest of an impressive list of collaborative agreements, Pharmacopeia DrugDiscovery recently inked a deal with Wyeth Pharmaceutical to jointly developand commercialize Pharmacopeia's JAK3 inhibitors for the treatment ofimmunological and inflammatory diseases.
"We are very focused on small molecule therapeuticdevelopment," notes Simon Tomlinson, Pharmacopeia's senior vice president ofbusiness development. "With 8 million compounds in our library, which webelieve is four times the size of any other company in the industry, initialscreening provides a rich set of information. In turn, this allows us to pickand choose among leads—we don't have to follow one or two well past the pointof diminishing returns. Consequently, we think that we are able to makeprogress more quickly."
Based on their mechanism of action, the market for JAK3inhibitor-based therapeutics should be very attractive, Pharmacopeia'sTomlinson explains. JAK3 is a protein target that is activated in response to atransplanted organ or autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, asthma,psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. JAK3 inhibitors downregulate the JAK3response, and since the mechanism of action is predominantly expressed in Tcells, Tomlinson says very few side effects should result.
Drugs for these indications currently on the market do havesignificant side effects, must be injected, and can cost up to $20 thousand peryear, Pharmacopeia claims.
Though apparently not locked-in, under the terms of theagreement with Wyeth, Pharmacopeia may also receive up to $9 million inresearch funding over the next three years and up to $175 million when Wyethachieves various developmental milestones, as well as double-digit royalties onthe net sales of any products commercialized by Wyeth as a result of thecollaboration
Wyeth, which currently markets the anti-inflammatoryinjectable Enbrel, will have the rights to systemic uses where its experiencewith immunologic diseases and therapies provides significant advantages. Acompany spokesman cites rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis as areas of "keen"interest. Wyeth declined to speculate on the length of the collaboration forcompetitive reasons.
Pharmacopeia will focus on skin and ocular diseases viatopical administration and retain certain rights that allow the company tobuild its own clinical portfolio and salesforce. Pharmacopeia operates on the classic biotech model.Founded in 1993 as a technology platform and service company with its corestrength in combinatorial chemistry, it was acquired and then spun off in 2004 byAccelrys Inc.—whose focus is computational software. It was this earlier historythat facilitated the compilation of its extensive library of chemicalcompounds. The company points to 40 collaborations in its short history, withnine active today, and three drugs in active Phase 1 clinical trials withpartners Shering-Plough (2) and Bristol Myers-Squibb.