An oncology alliance has brought Celera Genomics Group together with Abbott Laboratories.

The companies began a collaboration to discover, develop and commercialize cancer therapies through the use of therapeutic antibodies and small-molecule drugs targeted against overexpressed cell-surface proteins that have been validated at Celera. The Rockville, Md.-based company's proteomics research program dates back more than two years.

"We've been saying that we want to find ways to convert those targets into therapeutic programs for antibodies, but we don't have internal antibody capabilities," Rob Bennett, Celera's director of investor relations, told BioWorld Today. "We've got small-molecule capabilities, but it makes more sense just to partner some of these targets with Abbott, which has a very broad array of capabilities in discovery and development, as well as manufacturing and marketing for down the road."

He said the deal provides a short-term vehicle for advancing a subset of its proteomics targets - the agreement does not encompass all the assets of Celera's proteomics findings - and also earns the company preclinical milestone payments.

Terms call for Abbott Park, Ill.-based Abbott to screen a number of protein antigens already identified and validated by Celera, and from them Abbott may then select candidates for preclinical development. Celera is eligible to receive payments from Abbott based on the latter's successful completion of certain preclinical milestones.

The parties can elect to jointly fund clinical development and commercialization of any resulting therapeutic products, and as a result would share financial returns. Abbott would have responsibility for commercializing jointly funded collaboration products.

If either party does not elect to jointly fund clinical development of a resulting product, the terms would revert to a milestone and royalty structure, though more specific financial terms were not disclosed.

The multiyear deal is not focused on any single type of cancer, though Celera's identification and validation work provides a starting foundation for the collaboration.

"We've been getting tumor tissue and cell lines in pancreatic, lung, colon and breast cancers," Bennett said, adding that Celera has targets from the first three. "What we're partnering is the target; we're not targeting a specific indication within cancer. It's broad because it's very likely that some of these targets are going to be relevant to multiple cancers."

The Abbott deal represents more of a partnership to Celera than its two primary partnerships, in which it out-licensed small molecules to Aventis SA, of Strasbourg, France, and Merck & Co. Inc., of Whitehouse Station, N.J.

In the partnership with Abbott, certain diagnostic rights associated with selected targets will be retained by Celera Diagnostics, a joint venture between Celera Genomics and Foster City, Calif.-based Applied Biosystems Group. The diagnostics business is developing tests for infectious diseases and cystic fibrosis. All three companies are units of Applera Corp., of Norwalk, Conn.

Already established therapeutic programs at Celera Genomics include two in late-stage preclinical testing. The company is developing small-molecule inhibitors of histone deacetylase for cancer, as well as inhibitors of Factor VIIa for anticoagulation indications such as deep-vein thrombosis.

On Wednesday, Celera's stock (NYSE:CRA) rose 9 cents to close at $11.20.

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