ChemDiv, Avalon pool resources for oncology candidates

Avalon and ChemDiv are combining their technologies to seek small molecules active against cancer.

Lisa Espenschade
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SAN DIEGO—Avalon Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and ChemDiv, Inc., are combining their drug discovery technologies for a collabora­tion that will seek out small molecules active against cancer. Under the terms of the deal, Avalon will use its proprietary AvalonRx platform to discover new active compounds in screens against selected targets and tar­get pathways. ChemDiv will provide Avalon access to its Discovery outSource servic­es platform, including the world's largest commercially available chemical library, as well as medicinal and synthetic chemistry for the discovery and development of new active compounds.
Gary Lessing, executive vice president and CFO at Avalon, sums up the collabora­tion's strategy by saying, "We're doing the screening, they're doing the optimization, and the program is jointly owned." Avalon, says Lessing, hopes to increase its chemical library from 80,000 to 280,000 compounds with ChemDiv's help. The program cov­ers a broad range of undisclosed oncology indications, pathways, and targets, accord­ing to Lessing, and is part of a larger effort that includes joint projects with MedImmune and Novartis.
From ChemDiv's perspective, the synergy of the collaboration boils down to one word, says pres­ident and CEO Nikolay Savchuk: pathways. "We at ChemDiv devel­op the chemistry designs for path­ways and we've been known for that and dealt successfully with that," he says, noting ChemDiv's proficiency for combining rational design and attractive chemistry. ChemDiv has added in vitro and medicinal chemistry capabilities to synthetic chemistry, he says, thus moving services further up the discovery and development pipe­line and increasing its outSource platform's offerings for collabora­tive discovery efforts.
ChemDiv and Avalon began their project by establishing a steer­ing committee to set up a research process that will help them reach milestones; both Savchuk and Lessing say the program could continue for years. The two com­panies will share expenses, with either party having the opportu­nity to opt out at any time, says Lessing. Any drugs coming out of the program would be jointly owned if both companies maintain their sides of the funding, though Avalon would most likely handle commercialization.
Lessing notes that Avalon has already used compounds from the ChemDiv library. "We found them to be of high quality," he says, and hopes the ChemDiv library will further augment Avalon's exist­ing "deck" through diverse com­pounds with drug-like qualities that cover a broad range of chemi­cal space. Savchuk sees ChemDiv's role as bringing value to Avalon in its search for drug candidates. ChemDiv's contribution to the col­laboration, he says, will be "pretty much good old drug discovery."

Lisa Espenschade

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