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 agreement with Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc (Idenix). Idenix is based in Cambridge, Mass, USA, and is engaged in the discovery and development of innovative anti-viral therapeutics.

Sareum will utilise its expertise and skills in high throughput protein expression, purification and structure determination to provide support for Idenix's program to discover new drug candidates for the treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS. Sareum will seek to illustrate the precise nature and manner in which Idenix's potential drug candidates interact with an HIV virus protein that is thought to be responsible for the development of viral resistance to many currently approved HIV/AIDS therapies.

In return, Sareum will receive research fees and success milestone payments, the majority of which are expected to be recognized in the financial year to June 2006. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

This announcement follows the trading update issued by Sareum on 5th January 2006 where the Company stated that it had entered into several collaborations in late December, one of which is Idenix.

Commenting on the agreement, Sareum's Chief Executive Officer, Dr Tim Mitchell, said: "We are delighted that Idenix has chosen Sareum as their partner for protein structure determination. This collaboration, which is in an important new area of medicine to Sareum, validates the flexibility of our technology platform. Our track record in securing collaborations such as this demonstrates we are a partner of choice for high-throughput protein structure determination."

For further information:

Sareum Holdings 01223 497700
Tim Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer

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

Notes for editors:

About Sareum Holdings plc

Sareum Holdings plc is a specialist structure based drug discovery and services business headquartered in Cambridge, UK. The Company 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.

Structure-based drug discovery involves the determination of a disease causing protein's three-dimensional structure. Once the structure is known, novel chemical entities are designed to 'lock-in' to the protein with the aim of reversing or arresting a disease's progression.

Sareum's approach to structure based drug discovery is to produce multiple recombinant proteins primarily through a baculovirus expression system; determine their structure using x-ray crystallography; and then use the Company's template-molecule x-ray screening technology to identify new chemical entities designed to interact with the target protein. Sareum then uses its high-throughput medicinal chemistry platform to rapidly synthesise further 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

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 HIV/AIDS

AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. HIV destroys the body's ability to fight infections by attacking cells of the immune system.

Very soon after an individual becomes infected, the virus is spread throughout the body and reproduces itself at extremely rapid rates. As this happens, the immune system detects the virus and makes antibody, usually within two to four weeks of infection. The lymph system consists of nodes throughout the body that contain immune cells (T-lymphocytes) that trap, attack and destroy HIV (and other unwanted microbes). Eventually the cells in the lymph node become themselves infected and the lymph nodes begin to break down. This destruction of the nodes allows HIV and any other viruses, bacteria and fungi to "spill over" into the blood stream and attack more cells throughout the body. The destruction of infected lymphocytes by HIV eventually becomes so great that the T-lymphocytes are destroyed faster than they can be replaced, leading to a markedly weakened immune response. At this point, clinical symptoms of HIV appear, which include opportunistic infections and cancers, a sign that the disease is in an advanced stage. This entire course of events varies in duration among individuals, but when untreated usually lasts about 12 years.

Although efforts to develop a vaccine have failed to yield promising results, the significant investment in research has led to the development of a number of drugs to treat HIV infection.

In the United States and Western Europe where there is generally broader access to HIV drug therapy, many patients have developed drug resistant HIV rendering multiple drugs ineffective. Resistance can develop whenever there is less than complete suppression of virus replication (100% efficacy), a goal that has not yet been achieved. Factors that contribute to lack of 100% efficacy include: sub-optimal potency of the treatment regimen, pharmacokinetics or drug interactions, and side effects and poor tolerance to therapy which can lead to less than optimal adherence to the complex regimens required for HIV treatment.

HIV/AIDS Infection - Global Impact

  • 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV infection or AIDS
  • 2.5 million children are infected with HIV
  • Approximately 21.8 million people have died from AIDS
  • HIV/AIDS resulted in approximately 3.0 million deaths in 2003