Anergen Inc. and Novo Nordisk A/S on Monday extended and expanded their three-year-old collaboration in a new deal entailing increased research support and potential milestone payments to Anergen.

The companies will continue development of Anergen's AnergiX programs, which involve compounds designed to inactivate, or anergize, specific disease-related T cells in the areas of multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis and insulin-dependent diabetes. Anergen, of Redwood City, Calif., said it could realize more than $10 million in additional research and milestone support from the expanded deal.

The extension was for two years. Specific terms were not disclosed.

The original 1993 deal included an $8 million equity investment by Novo Nordisk, of Copenhagen, Denmark, in the potential $25 million collaboration. Novo is funding all research and will pay all clinical expenses. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 24, 1993, p.1.)

John Fara, Anergen's president and CEO, said the expanded deal included increased potential milestone payments in the diabetes program. He said Anergen has received more than $3 million each of the past two years in research support, and at least that much will be brought in this year.

The lead product from the collaboration is MS-AnergiX, a multiple sclerosis candidate just taken into a Phase I/II trial. In November Anergen presented preclinical data demonstrating therapeutic effect of a diabetes compound in an animal model of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Anergen hopes to identify a compound that can be taken into the clinic next year, Fara said.

Development of AnergiX compounds involve isolating the antigenic epitope (the portion of the disease-causing protein or peptide recognized by the T cell), then coupling the epitope to components of the major histocompatibility complex to form a complex that binds the T cell receptor so the cells no longer can respond to stimulation with more antigen.

Separately from the Novo relationship, Anergen is developing AnervaX technology, with the lead indication being rheumatoid arthritis. An arthritis compound, in Phase II testing, is designed to induce an antibody response to block antigen presentation.

Anergen's stock (NASDAQ:ANRG) lost 6 cents Monday to close at $3.56. n

-- Jim Shrine Staff Writer

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