LILLY SUPPORTING SHAMAN’s RAIN FOREST RESEARCH WITH $4 MIL.
LILLY SUPPORTING SHAMAN's RAIN FOREST RESEARCH WITH $4 MIL. equity investment and a four-year renewable R&D collaboration to discover and develop drugs to treat systemic fungal infections, the two firms announced Oct. 22. Shaman Pharmaceuticals will collect plant extracts found in tropical rain forests that exhibit antifungal activity and provide the initial screening to identify the most promising candidates; Lilly will conduct all the additional studies and have the option to acquire exclusive worldwide marketing rights to any developed products. Lilly is interested in developing broad-spectrum orally active agents to treat systemic fungal infections caused by candida, aspergillus and cryptococcus found in immunocompromised patients suffering from AIDS and the effects of chemotherapy or organ transplants, Shaman said. San Carlos, Calif.-based Shaman will retain rights to certain antifungals with limited applications in niche markets, including a topical agent now in late preclinical development. The $4 mil. equity investment will give Lilly a 6.5% stake in Shaman. Lilly is Shaman's first U.S. partner; the three-year-old firm's only other collaborator is Inverni della Beffa, an Italian pharmaceutical company. Shaman has two products in clinicals, which the firm is sponsoring without any corporate partners Provir, an oral antiviral for the treatment of respiratory viruses is in Phase I trials and a topical treatment for herpes is in Phase I/II clinicals. Shaman describes itself as a pharmaceutical company that combines "folk history, modern medicine, structured research and the tools of modern chemistry" to analyze plant extracts for their therapeutic potential and improve the efficiencies of the drug discovery process. In addition, it is committed to conserving the tropical ecosystem via a nonprofit organization, the Healing Forest Conservancy; Shaman will donate profits and royalties to the organization to help the countries in which it works preserve their natural resources. Shaman's research is conducted in all the countries in South America, southeast Asia and Africa that have tropical flora. The firm employs ethnobotanists to learn from "medicine men" or local healers (shaman) which plants are used to treat disease and infection. The local people are also used to collect the plants. Shaman has 36 full-time employees, including 16 MDs or PhDs. The startup was founded in 1989 by Lisa Conte who was previously a consultant for pharmaceutical companies.
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