Tri-partnership venture for drug discovery company


A new drug discovery company, Argenta Discovery, has just received 7.

2m of funding from a syndicate of venture capitalists.

Argenta Discovery is a three way partnership between Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, which is the UK's largest science-based university, a management buy-out (MBO) team from Aventis Pharma and a syndicate of venture capitalists comprising MVM, , and Genavent.

This innovative partnership between academia, industry and the City was put together by the advisory arm of the private investment firm, Company Guides. It recognised that by bringing together the worlds of academia and industry it would create a very powerful proposition for any venture capital investor.

Argenta Discovery

Argenta Discovery will have two activities: its own proprietary drug discovery programmes and the provision of medicinal chemistry and biochemical screening services to the pharmaceutical industry.

Argenta will develop compounds that interact with novel disease targets sourced from Imperial College and other academic and commercial collaborators and sell them on ('partner the programmes out') to the pharmaceutical industry for feeding into the ever-hungry drug development pipeline (see Notes to Editors). This approach offers major benefits to the pharmaceutical industry through both hastening the drug development process and reducing costs by focusing on candidates that are more likely to succeed.

Argenta Discovery will receive up-front payments, milestones and royalties on marketed products derived from these collaborative programmes.

It will also offer medicinal chemistry and biochemical screening services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. The first contract has already been signed with Aventis and contracts with others are in discussion.

Argenta Discovery will focus entirely on the early stage of drug discovery, leaving the capital-intensive phase of clinical evaluation and drug development and the later stage of drug marketing to its partners in industry.

A key part of Argenta Discovery's philosophy is to ensure that its academic partners share in the success of its drug discovery programmes. A proportion of the income generated by each programme will be shared with the appropriate academic institution.

Commenting on the deal, David Brister of MVM, leading the venture capital syndicate, said 'We are delighted to have been able to work with Aventis to create this new company, and we are grateful for the extensive help we have had from Aventis executives worldwide to make this happen.'

Daniel Morgan of 3i said, 'Argenta Discovery is a superb example of a collaboration between leading academics, industry and finance. It has all of the ingredients needed to become a significant and successful player in its market.'

Chris Newton, of the Aventis MBO team, said 'the Dagenham team pays tribute to all the hard work of the Argenta Discovery's executives who have encouraged us to go forward with our joint plans over the past nine months. We are also grateful to Aventis' senior management who have given us enormous support and advice throughout the process.'

Professor Christopher Edwards, Principal of Imperial College School of Medicine, said 'The successful launch of Argenta Discovery brings together the strengths of the Imperial College Department of Chemistry and Imperial's very large new Medical School. The synergy between these two world class research centres presents a remarkable opportunity to match new understanding of common diseases with novel therapies.'

Professor Tony Barrett, Glaxo Professor of Organic Chemistry at Imperial, said 'I am absolutely delighted to be involved in Argenta Discovery which, I believe, has an excellent future in pharmaceutical discovery and innovation. I welcome the early involvement of a major pharmaceutical company, Aventis, and I look forward to working with a stellar team of industrial scientists, academics and experienced managers.'

David McMeekin, Chairman of Company Guides, said, 'Company Guides is delighted to have helped to create an exciting new company which brings together academia, industry and the City on terms which are beneficial to all.'

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