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4SC Says It’s in Talks on Early Drug-Research Partnerships

4SC AG, a German biotechnology company, is in talks with “several” larger competitors and pharmaceutical producers about teaming up on early-stage drug programs, Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Dauer said.

4SC said today that it created a subsidiary for early-stage research with the aim of forming partnerships for any products. Companies have expressed interest in 4SC’s work on cancer stem cells, cytokine modulation and ion channel blockers for autoimmune disease, Dauer said today.

Large pharmaceutical companies are looking to invest in mid- and late-stage experimental medicines as patents expire on key drugs. The bigger producers are looking even earlier for potential blockbusters, Dauer said in a phone interview. At the same time, analysts don’t include early-stage research in their models of 4SC’s prospects, Dauer said.

“If you have new targets, a new approach, and you have preclinical data, this is an area where big pharma is strategically interested and willing to invest,” he said in a phone interview from 4SC’s headquarters in the Munich suburb of Planegg-Martinsried. He declined to disclose potential partners.

Companies including New York-based Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, and Bayer AG, the German inventor of aspirin, have said this year that they want to ensure research partnerships are profitable. Among early-stage cancer projects, it’s “difficult to find good ones,” and competition is “fierce” among potential investors, Helmut Haning, head of global drug discovery at Bayer’s health-care unit, said in October.

Capital-Market ‘Dependence’

4SC wants the research subsidiary, called 4SC Discovery GmbH, to “reduce the company’s dependence on financing over the capital markets,” it said in a statement today.

The unprofitable company said Nov. 8 it would concentrate development over the next few months on its main projects including cancer drug resminostat, vidofludimus for rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, and anti-cancer compound 4SC-202. It said the decision should give the company enough money to operate until early 2013.

“We are a small biotech company and we certainly have to focus our resources,” Dauer said.

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