Amura, Proteom merge in silico and chemistry platforms

Amura Ltd. and Proteom Ltd.merge to focus on small-molecule drug design and discovery efforts geared toward inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

Jeffrey Bouley
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CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—Amura Ltd. and Proteom Ltd., both based here, announced a merger of their operations into Amura Holdings Ltd. The merged company is focused on small molecule drug design and discovery efforts geared toward inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
The merger enables Amura to extend its preclinical product pipeline for partnering and in-house development, in large part because of the addition of Proteom's computational screening and design platform, ProtoDiscovery, which is being paired with Amura's proprietary bicyclic molecular scaffold chemistry platform called AMcore.
ProtoDiscovery is used to design, build and screen virtual compounds in silico against specific targets, selecting and ranking the best for in vitro testing. AMcore uses patented chemical scaffolds—structural subunits common to a group of molecules—to provide key building blocks for designing novel drug-like molecules with functional pharmacokinetic properties including specificity, solubility and chiral stability.
"The in silico tool is, from the Amura side of things, an incredible asset," notes the COO Bill Hamilton, who was also COO of Proteom. "What Amura had before was some very good proprietary medicinal chemistry, but now they have gained a whole computational outfit into their company."
"The AMcore platform can generate compounds capable of hitting a broad range of therapeutic targets," says Andrew Muncey, CEO of Amura. "ProtoDiscovery is a fast, efficient and versatile system for exploring the potential of chemical scaffolds. The combination of the two proprietary platforms enables the rapid exploitation of Amura's chemistry to develop a pipeline of novel drugs against validated targets."
Amura's lead programs are based on inhibition of cathepsin K and cathepsin S, and the merger expands Amura's discovery and preclinical development pipeline to 10 early stage programs for out-licensing and partnerships deals.
Proteom had done work with several other companies in years past to run leads through the ProtoDiscovery platform. Hamilton notes that the company, which launched in 2000, never really had designs to market software but was very interested in using informatics for ligand design. In addition, they had slowly and steadily grown the service-oriented side of their business since 2003, with Amura being a major client throughout 2005. In total, they had performed 19 short-term projects for 11 companies in the past few years.
"It's important to point out that this was not in any way a 'forced' merger," Hamilton stresses. "Proteom already had venture capital backing and had recently raised another €1 million. Amura, too, was in good financial shape. But it has never been a matter of us needing to merge. It's just that the fit of the two companies was something we couldn't ignore."
The combined early stage pipeline includes, from AMcore: an osteoporosis program based on cathepsin K inhibitors; a psoriasis program based on a cathepsin S inhibitors; a rheumatoid arthritis program based on cathepsin S inhibitors; a malaria program based on falcipain inhibitors; and an antibacterial program based on beta-lactamase inhibitors.
From the ProtoDiscovery side, there are five target-specific design program in the GPCR area: 5HT1A agonists for anxiety; 5HT1A antagonists for cognition; H3 for central nervous system disorders; MC4R for obesity; and MCH1 for obesity.
Hamilton notes that there are no plans to expand the pipeline in the short run, noting that at this point, it is more important to "whittle down the number of areas we are working on so that we stay focused on the best leads."

Jeffrey Bouley

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