ProQinase GmbH and Mercachem Holding B.V. Obtain $3.2 Million EU EUROSTARS Grant to Establish Epigenetics Drug Discovery Platform

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Freiburg, Germany & Nijmegen, the Netherlands – 13 May 2013. ProQinase and Mercachem received a € 2.5 Mio grant from the EU’s Eurostars program to support their joint efforts in establishing and expanding an innovative small molecule drug discovery platform.

The platform will comprise novel biological and pharmacological assay systems combined with new chemical space libraries targeted against most prominent epigenetic enzyme families. During a 3 year program biochemical, cell-based, and in vivo test systems will be established alongside with the development of novel scaffold-based compound libraries that qualify for hit generation and subsequent lead finding and optimization campaigns.

Frank Leemhuis, Managing Director of Mercachem, points out: “We are glad that we can strengthen our integrated drug discovery service offering with ProQinase in the emerging field of epigenetics, a very promising field in pharmaceutical and biotech research and development. The funds will enhance our position as a reliable research service provider within the rapidly developing market segment of drug discovery and medicinal chemistry outsourcing.”

Christoph Schächtele, CEO of ProQinase GmbH, further elaborates: “It’s a promising matter to combine our cancer drug discovery know-how with Mercachem’s complementary expertise in medicinal chemistry and to adapt all of this to epigenetic targets. We are convinced that thereby a new drug discovery platform will be formed which offers huge potential for integrated drug discovery projects in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies active in this field.”

“With this grant we have the exciting opportunity to apply our in-house expertise in medicinal chemistry with a focus on modern optimization parameters, such as residence time on target, for the generation of novel chemotypes aimed at most ambitious epigenetic targets.” explained Gerhard Müller, Senior Vice President Medicinal Chemistry at Mercachem.

“Similar to protein kinases, epigenetic enzymes belong to enzyme families of which some members are deregulated in cancer representing promising oncology intervention points. To allow most beneficial epigenetic therapies, novel epigenetic drugs should only block the action of oncogenic, (but not other) members of the respective enzyme family. Hence, we are convinced that our approach that comprises early drug profiling against on- and off-targets of epigenetic enzyme families and a stepwise improvement of inhibitory profiles will allow us to generate improved lead compounds and pre-clinical candidates.” Michael Kubbutat, Head Drug Development of ProQinase, added.

About Mercachem:

Mercachem is a privately owned leading European contract research organization offering innovative chemistry, medicinal chemistry and early process research services to accelerate the drug discovery and development process in a flexible and cost-effective way.

Working for many pharmaceutical and biotech companies throughout the world, Mercachem is recognized for its high-quality products and services and its unprecedented problem solving capabilities.

Mercachem was founded in 1997, occupies 3,500 m2 state-of-the-art research facilities in Nijmegen and employs approximately 125 chemists.

More information on Mercachem can be found on the company website or contact Jan Schultz, Director Business Development, by email at

About ProQinase:

ProQinase is a leading contract service provider dedicated to support pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the development of novel therapies for cancer treatment.

The company offers a comprehensive portfolio of products and services ranging from biochemical high throughput screening, cellular testing and in vivo studies that covers all steps during the drug discovery process in the field of cancer. ProQinase was founded in 2001 as a subsidiary of the Tumor Biology Center Freiburg, Germany, a privately owned hospital for cancer patients. To learn more about ProQinase, please visit the company’s web site on or contact Sebastian Dempe, Business Development Manager, by email at


Eurostars is a European Joint Programme dedicated to R&D performing SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) and co-funded by the European Community and 33 EUREKA member countries.

Eurostars aims to stimulate these SMEs to lead international collaborative research and innovation projects by providing access to support and funding.

It is fine-tuned to focus on the needs of SMEs, and specifically targets the development of new products, processes and services and the access to transnational and international markets.

Through this joint Programme, based on Article 185 of the Lisbon Treaty, Eurostars aims to combine the best of both worlds with a bottom-up approach, a central submission and evaluation process, and synchronized national funding in 33 countries.

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