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Genstruct and Entelos Make Headway on Biological Modeling


The buzz around biological model-making seems to be growing. Both Genstruct and Entelos, modelers betting on different approaches, announced significant progress points today for themselves and for the systems biology community as a whole.

Founded in 2001, Genstruct achieved the first milestone in a multi-year collaboration with Pfizer, and CEO Keith Elliston says he expects to reach a second milestone in the fall. While Entelos, founded in 1996, ventured outside the drug discovery world by announcing a deal with cosmetics giant Unilever to develop a bi-simulation model for the study of skin allergy.

Genstruct’s Pfizer collaboration, begun in 2003, encompasses three distinct efforts in early drug discovery, pre-clinical safety, and clinical projects.

“The completion we’ve announced was with the safety sciences group,” says Elliston. Genstruct constructed two models and analyzed several compounds in that program, according to Elliston. The company actually reached the milestone “a couple of months ago,” but getting approval to make the announcement took time.

“Pfizer doesn’t readily make these kinds of announcements,” says Elliston. The pharmaceutical industry is famously reticent on development programs; not surprisingly, Elliston declined to identify the therapeutic areas being pursued in the collaboration.

“You’ll start seeing publications and talks coming out from our partners about our work in the next year,” says Elliston. Genstruct also has a collaboration with Schering AG.

Reaching the Pfizer milestone is significant says Elliston: “I think for any early-phase discovery company that’s built on a platform it is important to really validate what that platform can do.”

Genstruct raised $6.5 million in a Series A round two years ago, and Elliston says he doesn’t anticipate seeking more outside funding unless the company expands its business model (see Deciphering Genstruct). The current headcount is roughly 20, but will grow, he says.

For Entelos, the Unilever collaboration is a further broadening of its business. Recently the company acquired Discovery Innovations to beef up its knowledge management and IT integration expertise (see Entelos Acquires Discovery Innovations).  It has talked about licensing its PhysioLab modeling platform on a more general basis.

The deal with Uniliver involves building a Skin Sensitization PhysioLab. As part of the agreement, Entelos will transfer the technology to Unilever for continued advancement of the model and research in skin sensitization. Entelos will retain full rights to use the platform, including rights for all pharmaceutical applications. Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

In a released statement, Entelos CEO James Karis said, “This collaboration continues to demonstrate the broad applicability of the PhysioLab technology throughout the health and personal care industries. We have established the technology in the context of predicting human response to therapeutic interventions, and are now taking our first steps to demonstrate the use of the technology in predicting human safety.”

Elliston was upbeat about the Entelos deal, “I think it’s great. We’ve heard that it’s been in the pipeline for a while. Unilever has a lot of issues with respect to some of the new European government regulations on animal testing and they’ve been very much focusing on systems biology and modeling on developing non-animal testing means of testing their products.”

Unilever is one of the world’s largest consumer products companies and has 223,000 employees in approximately 100 countries.

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