Ionix and Xenome Sign Toxin Deal in Analgesic Drug Discovery

CAMBRIDGE, England, Mar 5, 2002 (BW HealthWire) -- Ionix Pharmaceuticals Ltd, the European analgesic drug discovery company, announced today that it has signed an agreement with Xenome Ltd, an Australian company specialising in novel toxin peptide chemistry and drug discovery.

Ionix and Xenome will collaborate on the design, synthesis and screening of toxins and derivatives for evaluation as potential inhibitors of proprietary Ionix drug targets.

Ionix utilises ion channel drug targets that are involved in the perception and signalling of pain, with a focus on the discovery of drugs that act in the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The collaboration includes the search for selective antagonists of a sodium channel drug target that is expressed in the PNS. Target validation studies indicate that drugs which block this channel may lead to the development of potent new medicines for the management of chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

Xenome has synthesised libraries of toxin peptides, based on native toxin peptide structures isolated from a variety of venomous species. Ionix will screen these libraries against a number of proprietary ion channel drug targets to identify hit compounds that will enable the construction and modelling of novel pharmacophores for these targets. Ionix and Xenome will also collaborate on the use of their computational chemistry, medicinal chemistry and pharmacology resources to design and evaluate lead series of both peptide and non-peptide drugs arising from their research.

Phillip Birch, Chief Scientific Officer of Ionix Pharmaceuticals, said:

"We are impressed by Xenome's world-class resources and expertise in toxin peptide design and synthesis. This complements our experience and focus on ion channel biology, and our expertise in the in vitro and in vivo pharmacology of pain modulation".

Tony Evans, CEO of Xenome, said:

"Ionix is a leader in the field of analgesic drug discovery, based on significant intellectual property in ion channel drug targets. We believe that the relationship with Ionix will be truly synergistic, and will enable us to bring new insights into novel ways of treating acute and chronic pain".

Ionix and Xenome will work together on the development and commercialisation of drug candidates that derive from the collaboration, which will likely involve co-investment to proof-of-concept clinical trials and downstream corporate partnering for commercialisation.

Ionix also announced the appointment of Kelly Chessum as Financial Controller, formerly chief accountant with Cantab Pharmaceuticals plc, which was acquired by Xenova Group plc in 2001, where she also served as chief accountant.

Notes to Editors
About Ionix Pharmaceuticals
Ionix Pharmaceuticals, based in Cambridge UK, is focused on the research and development of novel analgesic drugs. There is a massive unmet clinical need in the treatment of pain associated with chronic debilitating diseases such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis. Ionix uses proprietary ion channel drug targets that are involved in the perception and signalling of pain, with a focus on the discovery of drugs that act in the peripheral nervous system. This will allow the discovery of highly selective and efficacious medicines, without the side effects that are associated with today's CNS-acting drugs.

Ionix was founded in July 2001, by Andrew Sandham (CEO), Phillip Birch (CSO), Professor John Wood and Ann Hayes. Series A financing raised (pound)8 million from Apax Venture Partners and The Wellcome Trust. The Company currently has 25 employees at its Cambridge R&D facility, including capabilities for screening, chemistry and development up to clinical proof of concept studies. Ionix will make extensive use of partnering with other organisations to expedite its drug discovery and development programmes.

For further information please visit

About Xenome
Xenome is a public, non-listed biotechnology company located in Brisbane, Australia. Current major shareholders are Medica Holdings Limited, an Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) listed biotechnology investment company, UniQuest Pty Ltd, the commercialisation company of the University of Queensland, and BioTech Capital Limited, an ASX listed biotechnology investment fund managed by Challenger BioTech Management Limited, a member of the Challenger International Group.

Xenome has established state-of-the-art laboratories in Brisbane where it conducts research and development activities using molecular genetics, peptide chemistry and molecular pharmacology technologies. Xenome focuses on the discovery of novel molecules, especially peptides from the venoms of Australian animals. Its research has led to the production of the world's largest library of molecules from these venoms which is now in demand by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the USA and in Europe.

For further information please visit

CONTACT: Ionix Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge
Andrew Sandham, +44 1223 433 721
Xenome Ltd
Tony Evans, +617 3720 8055