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Millennium gains broad access to human antibody technology through collaboration with Abgenix.

Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Cambridge, MA; 617-679-7000) announced that it has signed an agreement for an expanded relationship with Abgenix, Inc. (Fremont, CA) through which it will gain extensive access to Abgenix's XenoMouse technology for the creation of fully human antibodies. Abgenix will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and potential future payments that could reach $100 million plus royalties on product sales.

Under this new agreement, Millennium will have broad access to Abgenix's XenoMouse technology for research purposes as well as commercial use. In exchange for this comprehensive technology access, Millennium will make an undisclosed payment to Abgenix, followed by a second payment within two years, subject to the achievement of agreed-upon milestones. The agreement can be expanded to cover additional products for further payments. Millennium will receive an undisclosed number of commercial licenses without any further fees or milestone payments

"We are delighted to be working with Abgenix, a world leader in human antibody generation technology," said Christopher Mirabelli, PhD, president, pharmaceutical research and development of Millennium. "Millennium holds a very strong position in therapeutic antibody development. We expect to launch CAMPATH, our most advanced monoclonal antibody, later this year, following successful review by the Food and Drug Administration, and our pipeline of antibodies includes three product candidates in both clinical and preclinical development with dozens of additional monoclonal antibody targets under review. The addition of the Abgenix technology will help Millennium continue to build our pipeline of potent, refined and selective antibody therapeutics."

"Combining Abgenix's XenoMouse technology with Millennium's impressive capabilities and expertise in identifying and validating targets, provides a strong foundation upon which to generate antibody product candidates," said R. Scott Greer, president and chief executive officer of Abgenix. "We are pleased to be expanding our collaborative relationship with Millennium, a leader in the genomics field."

Genomics research facilitates the discovery of genes involved in various diseases. These genes encode proteins that may be implicated in causing or preventing disease or other medical disorders. Modulating levels of these proteins with small molecule drugs or antibodies may represent a therapeutic opportunity. Using XenoMouse technology, antibody product candidates can be generated to these protein targets very quickly.

"Recognizing the important role genomics research will play in the future of medicine, Abgenix has established significant alliances with three leading genomics companies: Millennium, Curagen and Human Genome Sciences," stated Greer. "While each collaboration is unique and we see them as complimentary, taken together they potentially cover over 200 product candidates."

Millennium now has one of the most comprehensive toolkits available anywhere for generating novel antibodies, with access to a variety of innovative and advanced technologies. In addition to its new relationship with Abgenix for Xenomouse technology, Millennium has existing relationships with Medarex, also for transgenic mouse technology, and Morphosys, for phage display antibody technology. Millennium's relationships with Professor Herman Waldmann, MD, PhD, F.R.S., at the University of Oxford (Oxford, United Kingdom) as well as the University's Therapeutic Antibody Center, and the efforts lead by Millennium Predictive Medicine, will also continue to provide opportunities for the adoption of pioneering approaches to clinical development of the Millennium antibody pipeline. These technologies are a powerful complement to Millennium's strong capabilities in finding novel targets, based on broad expertise in gene discovery, functional genomics, and disease biology. As a result, Millennium is uniquely positioned to lead the industry in the discovery and development of antibody therapeutics.

Millennium's preclinical and clinical therapeutic antibody pipeline spans a broad spectrum of serious medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, organ transplantation, inflammatory bowel disease, and stroke. Novel antibody products in development at Millennium include the investigational compounds LDP-01 for treatment of stroke, LDP-02 for treatment of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, and CAMPATH, which is currently being evaluated by the FDA.

"This strategic relationship with Abgenix rounds out Millennium's capabilities and reinforces our position as a key integrator in the increasingly important field of therapeutic antibody research and development," said Mark Levin, chief executive officer of Millennium. "With our expertise in early-stage genomic discovery of targets, ability to qualify them as disease-relevant, broad access to technology, and the rich pipeline of preclinical and clinical antibody therapeutics we acquired in our merger with LeukoSite, we are well positioned to continue leading this important sector of the industry."

Antibodies are naturally occurring proteins produced by the immune system in response to substances that appear to be foreign to the body, known as antigens. Each of the millions of antibodies produced in the body has the ability to single out the presence of a specific antigen, or target, and then trigger its destruction. If the antigen is produced only by diseased cells, these cells can be killed without harming healthy neighboring cells.

A monoclonal antibody is one derived from a single cell. Monoclonal antibodies can be produced in quantity, and used to treat a variety of diseases ranging from cancer to cardiovascular disease. Because of their high specificity and biological nature, monoclonal antibodies may significantly reduce the side effects experienced with traditional therapies. Monoclonal antibodies are currently the fastest growing therapeutic drug class.

XenoMouse was created to serve as an antibody "factory." In these mice, the genes that produce mouse antibodies have been replaced with genes that produce human antibodies. As a result, the mice make fully human antibodies in response to human antigens. These antibodies are much more useful as therapeutics than mouse antibodies, which are treated as foreign by the human immune system - preventing them from reaching their targets, and leading to side effects. Moreover, the use of transgenic mice can reduce the initial development time for a therapeutic monoclonal antibody by greater than 50 percent since antibody humanization, a technique commonly employed to reduce immune responses to mouse antibodies, is not required. Transgenic mice provide one of the most efficient, prolific and cost-effective methods for creating fully human antibody candidates

Millennium, a leading drug discovery and development company, employs large-scale genetics, genomics, high throughput screening and informatics in an integrated science and technology platform. This innovative drug discovery platform is applied across the entire healthcare sector, from gene identification through patient management, to accelerate and transform the discovery and development of proprietary therapeutic and Diagnomics products and services.
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Comment:Millennium gains broad access to human antibody technology through collaboration with Abgenix.
Publication:BIOTECH Patent News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
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