Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has touted its VelocImmune antibody discovery technology as revolutionary, and pharma apparently agrees, with the company entering into its second potential $120 million licensing agreement in less than two months.

The partner this time is Astellas Pharma of Toyko, which signed a deal to pay $120 million over the next five years - including $20 million upfront - for a non-exclusive license for the technology. Astellas retains the ability to terminate the deal after the first three additional payments.

Regeneron, based in Tarrytown, N.Y., also will collect a mid-single-digit percentage royalty on sales when antibody products discovered using its technology are commercialized.

Terms of the deal are virtually identical to one the company announced in February with AstraZeneca of London. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 6, 2007).

In signing on with AstraZeneca, Regeneron found a partner experienced in the antibody arena. In a statement announcing the latest deal, George Yancopoulos, president of Regeneron Research Laboratories and Regeneron's chief scientific officer, cited Astellas' "clear strategic commitment to developing therapeutic antibodies."

The VelocImmune technology is designed to overcome limitations of speed, efficiency and other areas present with existing mouse and in vivo approaches. It's licensees get a breeding pair of mice that have had more than 6 megabases of mouse immune genes replaced with their human counterparts, a number significantly larger than used before. The genes are inserted exactly where they belong in the mouse genome.

VelocImmune is one of a trio of inter-related technology platforms Regeneron has developed to more quickly and efficiently allow discovery of human monoclonal antibody therapeutics.

Last September the National Institutes of Health awarded Regeneron a five-year grant to use the technology for NIH's Knockout Mouse Project using the company's VelociGene technology.

The goal there is to build a comprehensive and broadly available resource of knockout mice to accelerate the understanding of gene function and human diseases.

It's VelociMouse platform enables scientists to generate mammalian models directly from ES cells without the need for chimeras or breeding.