Biocatalysis and fermentation process development firm Codexis received a major boost last week with a $10 million equity investment from Pfizer. The investment accompanies a new research agreement under which the companies will focus on process R&D for Pfizer's small-molecule drugs. Up-front payments, technology fees, and milestone payments could net Codexis an additional $40 million over the multiyear contract.
Codexis will apply its MolecularBreeding protein and gene engineering technologies to develop novel process techniques for Pfizer. The drug company will have the option to acquire a nonexclusive license to certain Codexis technologies for application to its drug pipeline. Codexis, a majority-owned subsidiary of Maxygen, is already working under a previous contract with Pfizer on improving the fermentation production of doramectin, an animal parasiticide.
"The deal is a massive validation for us," says Tassos Gianakakos, vice president for corporate development at Codexis. "The objective is for Pfizer to apply the technology broadly to its small-molecule pipeline."
Codexis also announced last week the commercialization of a process it designed for fine chemicals firm Lonza for making a chiral intermediate to a "major" drug. Lonza will use the Codexis process, which employs three enzymes, at its Swiss facility. Although the compound is undisclosed, Codexis recently filed a patent on an enzymatic route to 4-substituted 3-hydroxybutyric acid derivatives, intermediates used to make statin cholesterol-lowering drugs.