Adherex and Scynexis are teaming up to help develop drug candidates based on so-called “small molecules”.

Adherex is interested in developing versions of a drug now under trial that must be delivered intravenously. Adherex wants what it calls “orally active” drugs as well.

Small molecules have a lower molecular weight and can be enhanced to be used orally, are more potent and stable than peptides.

Adherex is developing oncology products based on small molecules.

Under the agreement, Scynexis will provide medicinal and analytical services to Adherex.

Terms were not disclosed.

“Adherex’s lead biotechnology compound, ADH-1, is progressing well through its development and is entering Phase II clinical trials,” said Brian Huber, chief scientific officer at Adherex. “ADH-1 is a cyclic peptide that has been well tolerated and has shown encouraging anti-tumor activity in our Phase I program. It is administered by intravenous injection, which is appropriate for an anti-tumor and vascular targeting agent used in cancer patients.

“However, there are other potential uses for cadherin antagonist drugs that would be better served by an orally active drug,” he explained. “To enhance our capabilities for oral drug delivery, we are working with Scynexis to expand our small molecule discovery efforts.”

Huber said Adherex already has identified small molecules it wants to develop.

“These small molecule antagonists are a solid starting point for further lead optimization efforts, thereby advancing orally active therapeutics in our pipeline,” he said.

Scynexis will commit a medical chemistry team to the project, but Adherex will retain proprietary information and data, the companies said.