BioWorld International Correspondent

Pharming Group NV purchased the remaining intellectual property assets of PPL Therapeutics plc from London-based Innovation Development Ltd., for what Chief Science and Technology Officer Frank Pieper called "a relatively small sum."

The sale consists of 57 issued patents, plus a large number of patent applications, covering a variety of recombinant protein production and purification technologies.

The deal will have an immediate impact on Pharming's preclinical program to develop a recombinant form of human fibrinogen as a tissue sealant for surgical use and other related applications. Pharming, which obtains the protein from the milk of transgenic cattle, had been about to commence development of a large-scale GMP production and purification method.

"We are now in the process of receiving the documents from PPL that describe that process," Pieper said. "It's going to accelerate the program quite clearly."

The portfolio also includes patents covering recombinant production of the proteins alpha-1-antitrypsin, bile salt stimulated lipase, extracellular superoxide dismutase, alpha-lactalbumin and Factor IX, as well as fusion proteins and peptides. "It has a lot of technology angles but also a lot of product angles," Pieper said. Pharming, of Leiden, the Netherlands, is unlikely to undertake additional development on a solo basis, however.

"I think it's most likely we would do that in collaboration," Pieper said.

The deal is the company's third IP agreement, having previously entered accords with Infigen Inc., of DeForest, Wis., and with its own subsidiary ProBio International Holdings Pte. Ltd. Those cover areas such as nuclear transfer, cloning, transgenesis, sperm-mediated gene transfer and associated technologies. Combining those will open up additional business development opportunities, Pieper said. "Pharming now very clearly is a one-stop shop," he said. Up to now, it has been difficult to move the transgenic industry forward because of the fragmented nature of the underlying IP, he said, but "that's no longer the case. People can now just deal with Pharming."

Pharming's lead program, a recombinant form of human C1 inhibitor, is in Phase III trials in Europe for treatment of hereditary angioedema. That is on schedule for completion later this year, with a market launch planned for 2005. A Phase II trial in the U.S. also is planned for "the not-too-distant future," Pieper said. Pharming also has preclinical programs in the production of human recombinant lactoferrin and human recombinant collagen.

For Edinburgh, UK-based PPL, the deal closes a well-publicized chapter in the history of UK biotechnology. The company that brought Dolly the sheep to the world now exists in name only.