Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Research & Development (JRD) unit will fund a pilot study of Forge Therapeutics’ chemistry platform in the discovery of new drugs based on metalloprotein inhibitors.

The value of the collaboration was not detailed by Forge, which disclosed the pilot study today.

Forge is a resident company of JRD’s JLABS incubator in San Diego, working to commercialize technology developed by the company’s scientific founders, Seth Cohen, Ph.D., and David Puerta, Ph.D., from University of California at San Diego (UCSD).

For more than a decade, Dr. Cohen’s lab has developed fragment libraries of metal binding pharmacophores as an alternative to high-throughput screening methods in discovering new small-molecule metalloprotein inhibitors against validated biological targets. Metalloproteins require metal ions for their biological function, and make up over 1/3 of the proteins in the human body.

According to the website of Dr. Cohen’s research group, a number of metalloproteins are associated with diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer to anthrax infections. Using fundamental principles of inorganic chemistry, researchers from the group have developed inhibitors that better target the metal active sites of these proteins.

“The majority of our work has focused on [zinc ion] Zn(II)-dependent metalloproteins; however, we have applied our approach to other targets such as HIV integrase and many others,” the group stated. “Recent efforts in our laboratory has explored the preparation of metalloprotein prodrugs, particularly those activated by reactive-oxygen species (ROS).”

The group added that its work has also led it to explore the coordination chemistry of novel ligands, including thiopyrones and hydroxypyridinethiones.

“We believe large pharmaceutical companies can benefit from Forge’s approach and platform to bring novel chemistry to validated biological targets,” Forge co-founder and CEO Zachary A. Zimmerman, Ph.D., said in a statement.

According to Forge, the inhibitors are envisioned to “create a leading portfolio of first-in-class and best-in-class medicines for high unmet medical needs”—none of which were disclosed in its announcement.

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