Nepkar will revolutionize drug screening under contract to major pharmaceutical companies. Nepkar is a new company formed to apply yeast genetic engineering to the discovery of new drugs. Its core technology is in engineering human cell targets in yeast such that the yeast can respond to molecules, both natural and unnatural, that match the target. This allows us to make screens for new drugs that either block the target function (antagonists), or mimic the action of the natural ligand (agonists). The advantages of using yeast for screening as opposed to competing technologies such as membranes or mammalian cell lines are:
Receptor targets are membrane-spanning proteins which connect the inside of cells to the outside. Receptors have two important properties: they bind specific target molecules - ligands - outside the cell; and then transmit this information within the cell. As a result, they can affect the whole range of cellular activity, from metabolic activity to the choice between cell- death and division. Of the many receptor families, the most numerous and diverse are the G-protein linked receptors. They allow cells to detect a vast range of chemical stimuli ranging from nutrients to toxins, protein hormones to neurotransmitters and light to macromolecules. They are fundamental to life, and are found in most organisms.
Our initial targets, G-protein coupled receptors, (GPCRs) are a major focus of pharmaceutical drug discovery. Of the top 100 drugs, 18 are directed at GPCRs, and an estimated 60% of all commercial drugs act on GPCRs. Interest in them as targets is being further fueled by the human genome project, which is identifying hundreds of new "orphan" receptors, Overall there are probably about 4000 human GPCRs of pharmaceutical interest. There is therefore a critical need for new technologies that accelerate the development of new drug leads targeted at this class of receptor. Nepkar will not itself become involved in downstream pharmaceutical development, though it will retain royalty rights and form strategic alliances with researchers and combinatorial-chemistry companies to identify drug leads for licensing to pharmaceutical companies.
The research revenues will be used to fund the further development of yeast as a drug screening tool, broadening its application to other classes of drug target such as ion channels, nuclear receptors and components of cell signaling pathways. We will also develop further Nepkar's proprietary technology relating to receptors with specificity for compounds of commercial (non-pharmaceutical) importance. These will be incorporated into first-generation biosensors using intact yeast cells, with application in the lucrative area of medical diagnostics and the rapidly growing field of environmental monitoring. Nepkar is entering negotiations with a large instrumentation company to completely fund biosensor development, with Nepkar retaining substantial revenue rights.
Nepkar seeks £1.5m to build a staff base and to fund operating expenditure for two years. At this point the Company should have a neutral cash flow from its rapidly expanding contract drug discovery operation, and a greatly expanded intellectual property portfolio. As a biotech investment opportunity, Nepkar is unusual in that it couples relatively low start-up and ongoing costs, an early revenue stream, and significant scope for growth in asset value based on its intellectual property and projected research contracts.
The founders of Nepkar are Andy Alias, who has an extensive track record in scientific management and product development, and Dr Mark Alias, who has successfully applied Biotechnology both in the food industry (for Nutrasweet), and the pharmaceutical industry (for British Biotech plc). Nepkar has been formed with the full support of British Biotech, who have committed to invest £250k of seed capital, and agreed a £250k research contract to develop a yeast-based GPCR screen. British Biotech will retain a minority stake in Nepkar (15%).
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1. Executive Summary|
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