Aventis Pharmaceuticals Makes Milestone Payment to Astex

CAMBRIDGE, U.K., Sept. 4, 2002 (PRIMEZONE) -- Astex Technology, the structure-based drug discovery company, today announced that it has received the first milestone payment from Aventis Pharmaceuticals, as part of a structural biology research agreement focused on solving novel human cytochrome P450 crystal structures. This initial milestone payment is related to Astex's previously reported determination of the first 3-dimensional structure of a human cytochrome P450 enzyme.

Timothy Haines, Chief Executive of Astex, said: "Significant progress has been made in the determination of cytochrome P450 crystal structures at Astex. The recognition of the initial crystal structure, by Aventis, further endorses the company's abilities in structure-based drug discovery." Financial details were not disclosed.

Aventis is the third company to establish a drug discovery collaboration with Astex around cytochrome P450 crystal structures. Cytochrome P450s are the most prominent group of drug-metabolizing enzymes in humans. Adverse reactions to a number of marketed drugs and drug-combination therapies have been attributed to the activity of this group of proteins, and the administration of certain drugs may be ineffective or even harmful as a result of patient-specific variations in cytochrome P450s. Additionally, cytochrome P450 activity is implicated in drug development failures. The insight provided by P450 structures should improve the success rates and economics of drug discovery and result in safer and more effective new medicines.

Astex Technology is a structure-based drug discovery company pioneering the use of high throughput X-ray crystallography for the rapid identification of novel drug candidates. The company's unique structural screening approach utilizes protein crystal structures to detect the binding of drug fragments, which are then optimized into potent lead compounds. Facilitating this approach is the company's integrated drug discovery platform of HTX(R) technologies, which covers all aspects of structure-based research, including protein production, crystallization, structure determination, bioinformatics and computational and medicinal chemistry. Astex is focusing its drug discovery approaches on proprietary and public domain protein targets from families and/or pathways. This includes validated kinases, phosphatases and proteases implicated in human disease. Astex has research agreements with Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development focused on lead discovery and optimization, and structural biology research agreements with AstraZeneca AB, Aventis Pharmaceuticals and Mitsubishi Pharma focused on solving novel cytochrome P450 crystal structures.

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