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CARLSBAD, Calif.—Invitrogen Corp. and Emiliem Inc., a biotech company that discovers and develops targeted oncology drugs, announced a partnership under which Invitrogen is screening Emiliem's multi-kinase inhibitors using its SelectScreen platform.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Emiliem president and CEO Dale Johnson says the companies have a fee-for-service arrangement. "We actually expect to run as long as we're doing this kind of business," says Johnson. "We really consider Invitrogen to be more or less a research arm of our business."
Invitrogen will perform several phases of work on Emiliem's compounds, says Chris Armstrong, director of discovery collaborations at Invitrogen, initially using kinase assays to assess selectivity and potency, then pathway assays for understanding cellular activity, and, finally, P450 screening to monitor potential liabilities. Armstrong emphasizes that he can draw on numerous technologies as well as scientists with broad expertise. "We understand the biology and we understand the challenge," he says. Johnson anticipates benefiting from Invitrogen's ability to produce new or custom assays in the future.
Invitrogen is performing its work early in Emiliem's process. "We're on the front end of our research," says Johnson. "It's actually a computational drug design. We're designing multiple kinase specificity into each compound." Emiliem dials various kinases in or out of compounds to maximize specificity and minimize off-target effects, says Johnson. "It's very important then to get those right into a screen and understand if you've actually done it. It's an information piece that you have to have almost instantly."
The work, which has already begun, is conducted at Invitrogen's in Madison, Wisc. location. Armstrong says the facility is equipped to enable smooth workflow and interaction between scientists from various teams. He sees the human element as an important selling point for Invitrogen's services, so encourages potential and existing partners to visit the facility. "One of the things that we've been keen to do with many of our partners… is, through these site visits, make them aware of how we might address different biology challenges.
The Invitrogen agreement joins other collaborations that Johnson says enable Emiliem to function flexibly as, essentially, a virtual company without a large infrastructure or wet labs. "We can do this really quickly," he says. "The important thing for us in our business model is that we work to get priority dates on intellectual property as fast as we possibly can. We have a full-time patent attorney."
Emiliem's collaborations include Molecular Imaging Research, which uses animal models to investigate compounds, and the Van Andel Institute, a cancer research facility that Johnson says takes a translational medicine biomarker approach by looking at animal models and informatics to select appropriate patients for drugs. "You've got to be able to select patients… that's absolutely key," says Johnson. "That's the essence of our whole business model and the way we're actually working." Emiliem also seeks to develop its process before in-licensing early-stage compounds.
Invitrogen's other kinase screening agreements have included Plexxikon Inc. and Locus Pharmaceuticals. Armstrong says Invitrogen's screening business grew 40 percent in 2006; Invitrogen opened a European screening center in July 2006 to expand capacity