Sareum Holdings plc (AIM: SAR), the specialist structure-based drug discovery and services business, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a collaborative research agreement with Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc (Idenix) to discover novel hepatitis C compounds. Idenix is based in Cambridge, Mass, USA, and is engaged in the discovery, development and commercialization of innovative anti-viral therapeutics.

The aim of this collaboration, which is planned to run for approximately one year, is to generate lead chemical series for development by Idenix into novel drug therapies for hepatitis C virus infection. This is the second collaboration between Sareum and Idenix; the first collaboration relating to HIV was announced on 10 January 2006.

Sareum will provide multi-disciplinary research teams to determine the three-dimensional structures of two of Idenix's hepatitis C disease protein targets and then deploy its innovative Template Screening method in an effort to identify novel compounds suitable for optimisation into lead drug candidates, using its automated medicinal chemistry platform.

In return, Sareum will receive research fees and milestone payments up to a value of approximately US$5 million, dependent on success, plus an additional milestone payment if compounds from this collaboration advance to clinical development.

Commenting on the agreement, Sareum's Chief Executive Officer, Dr Tim Mitchell, said: "We are delighted to have signed this agreement. We are very pleased that Idenix have chosen Sareum for an additional collaboration. This provides further validation of our capabilities and demonstrates that we are a partner of choice for structure-based lead generation and optimisation. We see this as a significant advancement for Sareum."

For further information:

Sareum Holdings 01223 497700
Tim Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer

Buchanan Communications 020 7466 5000
Tim Anderson, Mary-Jane Johnson

Notes for editors:

About Sareum Holdings plc

Sareum Holdings plc is a structure-based drug discovery business headquartered in Cambridge, UK. Sareum Limited was formed in August 2003 to discover new drugs for the treatment of cancer and to provide a range of drug discovery services to the pharmaceutical industry. Sareum's unique approach aims to halve the time it takes to discover new drug candidates.

A structure-based approach to drug discovery relies on knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of the proteins that cause disease. Once the structure is known, potential drugs are designed to 'lock-in' to the protein with the aim of reversing or arresting a disease's progression. Knowledge of the structure of the potential drugs and how they 'lock-in' to the protein permits the best potential drug to be discovered. Determining structure is a complex task and requires leading-edge equipment and experienced staff. Sareum's approach to structure determination is to produce multiple recombinant proteins primarily through a baculovirus expression system and to determine their structure using x-ray crystallography.

When the structure is determined, the Company's innovative Template Screening platform is used to identify novel chemical starting material designed to interact with the target protein. Sareum then uses its high-throughput medicinal chemistry platform to rapidly optimise these molecules and develop the most promising into potential drug candidates.

Sareum provides its specialist drug discovery capabilities to partners in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The Company aims to successfully deliver: Programmes for complete gene-to-candidate structure-based discovery; projects to accelerate or improve the productivity of specific activities; and drug candidates for licensing at the Phase I or Phase II clinical trials stage.

Sareum joined the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange in October 2004 and trades under the symbol SAR. For further information, please visit www.sareum.co.uk

About Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company engaged in the discovery and development of drugs for the treatment of human viral and other infectious diseases. Idenix current focus is on the treatment of infections caused by hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

About Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV infection becomes chronic in 75 to 85 percent1 of individuals after their initial infection. It is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the United States. Chronic HCV infection inflames the liver, causing progressive liver damage that can lead to cirrhosis (liver scarring), hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer), liver failure, and death. Hepatitis C related liver failure is the most common indication for liver transplantation in the United States. Chronic hepatitis C generally progresses slowly; evidence of liver disease typically appears 10 to 40 years after initial infection. In its early stages, chronic hepatitis C is often asymptomatic or causes non-specific symptoms such as fatigue. For this reason, most people who carry chronic HCV infection are unaware of their condition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 4 million Americans have been infected with HCV, and 2.7 million of these carry chronic HCV infections2. Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that 170 million individuals carry chronic HCV infection, with 3 to 4 million new infections each year1. Costs for providing care for patients with HCV-associated liver disease in the United States are estimated to be more than $750 million to several billion dollars annually, with societal costs at 5 times that amount; this cost is likely to increase in proportion to the expanding patient population1,4,5. As the prevalence of severe liver disease attributable to hepatitis C rises, deaths due to complications from hepatitis C infection, currently 8,000 to 10,000 per year in the United States, are increasing and expected to triple by 20103.

  1. World Health Organization
  2. Center for Disease Control
  3. Davis G. et al. Liver Transplantation 2003; Vol 9, No 4:331-338
  4. Zein NN. Clinical Significance of HCV genotypes (April 2004)
  5. Yoo et al., The Journal of Infectious Diseases, January 2005
  6. Strader et al., Hepatology. April 2004.