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GEN News Highlights : Jan 26, 2010

Merck & Co. Taps Envoy for Target Discovery in Diabetes and Obesity

Envoy will use its bacTRAP platform to identify proteins produced by specific cell types.

Envoy Therapeutics signed a multiyear research collaboration with Merck & Co. to discover new drug targets for obesity and diabetes. Envoy will use its bacTRAP® technology to identify protein targets expressed in specific cell types. Merck will then work to identify and develop lead compounds against the targets.

Envoy’s bacTRAP technology has been developed to enable the in vivo identification of proteins produced by specific cell types without requiring the isolation of those cells. The firm claims the technology has particular benefits in brain tissue, which contains many hundreds of intermingled cell types.

The bacTRAP approach was pioneered by Envoy’s scientific founders at The Rockefeller University. The firm aims to focus its in-house efforts on the discovery and development of new treatments to benefit patients suffering from neurological and psychiatric diseases.

Envoy is a newly formed drug discovery company and closed its first financing round in October 2009. It raised $8 million through a private placement with 5AM Ventures, Takeda Research Investment (TRI), and Roche Venture Fund. In November Envoy secured a loan from Takeda Research Investment, which Envoy may elect to convert to preferred stock should the company complete a second private equity financing. TRI will receive certain rights from Envoy related to a specific therapeutic field, while scientists at the two companies have also forged a research alliance.