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Sep 27, 2004
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Busy Novartis

The research arm of Novartis AG has done more than 60 early stage deals this year as it seeks to jumpstart new programs, speed up existing programs and enter new areas. The company announced two of these deals last week: one on the technology side and one on the product side.

The proteomics collaboration with Cellzome AG fills in a specific hole in Novartis' pathway analysis capability, while giving Cellzome an urgently needed infusion of cash. The key for Cellzome will be how well it uses that lifeline to create a sustainable business.

The deal with Xenon Pharmaceuticals Inc. gives Novartis (NVS; SWX:NOVN, Basel, Switzerland) access to what Xenon believes is the most advanced program for Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase-1 (SCD1), a key regulatory enzyme in fatty acid metabolism. Partnering the preclinical program thus presumably puts NVS ahead of its competitors with a target it already was planning to tackle on its own.

Cellzome: The discovery side

Cellzome's technologies fit into two key places for NVS: target discovery and mechanism of action.

Three technologies are included in the proteomics deal. First is pathway mapping, which produces networks of proteins that socialize with each other. To create these pathways, Cellzome tags a protein at the N or C terminus, then transfects it into the cell, where a cluster of proteins will attach to it. These proteins are then tagged in turn and the process is repeated, ultimately creating a picture of a pathway.

Second is chemical proteomics, in which a compound of interest is chemically altered to attach to a matrix. This is then exposed to diseased cells to find the proteins that bind to it. "It's an affinity-based approach based on...

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