As part of its decision two years ago to divest its biopolymer-based drug delivery technology, Guilford Pharmaceuticals Inc. agreed to grant some of its in-licensed patents to Angiotech Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Angiotech plans to use biocompatible polymers for delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs. The patents support the company's ongoing research and development.

"It's just a fit with our general strategy as we look at using it in conjunction with devices or biomaterials for our local oncology applications," said Jeanne Bertonis, Angiotech's chief business officer. "It's just a great fit with us.

"And we get to work with MIT and Johns Hopkins, two of the finest institutions out there," she added.

Angiotech focuses on drug-coated medical devices and biomaterials, aiming to enhance them through pharmacotherapeutics.

The U.S. patents it acquired - Nos. 37,410; 5,626,862; and 5,846,565 - and other corresponding foreign patents and patent applications were licensed by Guilford in the mid-1990s from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Johns Hopkins University.

Baltimore, Md.-based Guilford will receive about $6.6 million in proceeds from the transaction with Angiotech.

"We've been searching for a way to monetize these assets, since we aren't at this time pursuing development," said Stacey Jurchison, Guilford's director of corporate communications.

"A couple of years ago, we were previously involved in drug delivery technology applications," she told BioWorld Today. "We moved away from that and our focus became more on pharmaceutical products for the hospital market."

Although it is moving away from the drug delivery area, Guilford entered a new license agreement with MIT and Johns Hopkins to hold limited rights under the patents to develop Paclimer Microspheres (polilactofate/paclitaxel) for certain indications in oncology and women's health. A few years ago, Guilford was studying Paclimer in a Phase I trial in women with advanced ovarian cancer. It has been shelved ever since the company changed its focus.

Paclimer is an injectable, biopolymer-based formulation of paclitaxel. It is designed to provide localized delivery of the drug directly to the site of a tumor, offering advantages over systemic treatment. Paclitaxel, one of the world's best-selling chemotherapeutic agents, is used to treat many forms of cancer, including ovarian, breast and lung.

"We could potentially out-license it," Jurchison said. "There are no immediate plans to continue development of Paclimer. But it was something that we created out of this property and we wanted to retain the rights."

Guilford's main focus is on developing drugs that target the hospital and neurology markets. It markets Gliadel Wafer to treat brain cancer and Aggrastat injection to treat acute coronary syndrome. Its product pipeline includes the sedative/anesthetic Aquavan injection and drugs for treating peripheral nerve injury.

Guilford raised $45 million in a public offering this summer to cover clinical trials of Aquavan and Aggrastat, and to advance preclinical candidates. (See BioWorld Today, July 2, 2004.)

Aquavan, a prodrug of propofol, soon will enter Phase III trials as a candidate for procedural sedation.

"That will be a series of several Phase III trials, which are all expected to get under way before the end of this year," Jurchison said.

Guilford also plans to conduct another Phase III program for Aggrastat to expand the product for use during percutaneous coronary intervention. A U.S. trial should begin by the end of this year, while a European trial is planned for early next year.

Guilford acquired U.S. rights to Aggrastat from developer Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J., shortly after the product was approved in 1998 to treat acute coronary syndrome. The company acquired rights to Aquavan in 2000 from ProQuest Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Lawrence, Kan.

As of June 30, Guilford had $74.1 million in unrestricted and restricted cash, cash equivalents and investments.

The company's stock (NASDAQ:GLFD) rose 1 cent Friday to close at $5.13. Angiotech's stock (NASDAQ:ANPI) dropped 32 cents to close at $18.23.

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