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GSK acquires Cellzome to boost early-stage drug discovery

Says deal with chemical proteomics company will help it bring new drugs to market faster

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is to acquire chemical proteomics company Cellzome in a £61m deal to boost its early-stage drug discovery capabilities and help it bring new drugs to market faster.

The deal will give GSK a state-of-the-art, proteomic mass spectrometry and screening capability, enabling greater knowledge of drug targets and their interactions with compounds in the early phases of drug discovery.

GSK said the use of this technology could “reduce attrition of potential new medicines during the development phase”.

It will also hand the UK pharma company Cellzome's laboratories in Cambridge, UK, and Heidelberg, Germany, which will become part of GSK's R&D organisation.

Cellzome's proteomics technology can be used throughout the drug discovery process and differ from traditional early drug discovery methods by assessing drug interactions with target proteins in a setting which more closely represents that found in a whole biological system.

This gives scientists the opportunity to observe how candidate drugs affect both intended and non-desired targets in a close-to-physiological environment and may pinpoint potential safety issues earlier in the process.

"The acquisition of Cellzome adds significantly to our scientific capabilities and capacity to characterise drug targets and provides the opportunity to further enhance GSK's ability to bring medicines to patients in a more effective manner," said John Baldoni, senior vice president, platform and technology science, at GSK.

GSK already owns almost 20 per cent of Cellzome's shares and has signed an agreement to acquire the remaining company shares, and assume full control of the company, which it expects to complete on May 21.

At the same time the pharma company will create a new company, run by shareholders from GSK and Cellzome, which will hold the rights to those Cellzome assets and activities it does not wish to progress.

GSK and Cellzome have been working together on two active early-stage research collaborations using these discovery capabilities within the immune-inflammation therapy area, which GSK said could now benefit its whole portfolio.

"We are pleased to announce this transaction, which will enable GSK to progress the technologies that we have been developing for more than a decade," said Tim Edwards, CEO of Cellzome. "This follows nearly four years of successful collaboration with GSK, during which time we demonstrated the value and breadth of the Cellzome platform for drug discovery."

The deal with Cellzome is its third platform technology acquisition since 2007, when it acquired generation of antibody therapy firm Domantis and Praecis, a Massachusetts-based company that created novel therapeutic programmes and an innovative chemical-synthesis and screening technology.

16th May 2012


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