Washington Editor

CuraGen Corp. licensed Antibody-Drug Conjugate technology from Seattle Genetics Inc. for use in developing antibodies in the treatment of cancer.

CuraGen will pay Seattle Genetics a $2 million up-front fee for access to the Antibody-Drug Conjugate (ADC) technology for one target, plus an additional $2 million payment on a second target should CuraGen exercise the option, Clay Siegall, Seattle Genetics' president and CEO, told BioWorld Today.

If two candidates make it to market, Bothell, Wash.-based Seattle Genetics could collect $28 million in progress-dependent milestones, plus royalties.

Indeed, CuraGen, a New Haven, Conn.-based firm that develops protein drugs, antibody drugs and small molecules, believes the ADC technology will help its antibodies conjugate with drugs that could be used for a more targeted approach to attacking cancer cells, Fred Aslan, CuraGen's director of corporate strategy and investor relations, told BioWorld Today.

ADC technology, developed at Seattle Genetics under the leadership of Peter Senter, the firm's vice president of chemistry, is comprised of synthetic drugs and stable linkers for attaching drugs to monoclonal antibodies. Seattle Genetics currently has licensing deals for the technology with Genentech Inc., of South San Francisco; Celltech Group plc, of Slough, UK; and Protein Design Labs Inc., of Fremont, Calif.; Siegall said, adding that his firm expects SGN35, a cancer drug for hematological malignancies based on the ADC technology, to enter the clinic in mid-2005.

Six months after that, SGN75, a renal-cell cancer and autoimmune candidate also developed using the ADC technology, is expected to advance into the clinic, Siegall said. Both SGN35 and SGN75 are wholly owned by Seattle Genetics.

Meanwhile, Jason Kantor, an analyst with WR Hambrecht + Co. in San Francisco described the ADC technology as "industry leading."

In part, that is evidenced by Seattle Genetics' licensing deals, but Kantor also told BioWorld Today that the company is "putting very potent drugs on antibodies, and when you do that, it is very important to use a linker system that is very stable because obviously you don't want these toxins falling off. The activity of these molecules preclinically is amazing - they haven't been tested in humans yet, but it is my view that this is going to be the technology of choice going forward."

While CuraGen has several products in the clinic, the company hopes to make announcements later this year on its next investigational new drug applications. Aslan said it is possible that one of the INDs could stem from the Seattle Genetics' technology.

Elsewhere in its pipeline, CuraGen expects CG53135 to enter a Phase II study later this year in oral mucositis, and another candidate, CR002, is expected to enter Phase I in kidney inflammation.

As part of its transformation from a genomics discovery company to a product development firm, CuraGen in recent weeks in-licensed a cancer compound called PXD101 from the Copenhagen, Denmark-based firm TopoTarget A/S. The deal could mean more than $100 million to TopoTarget, which is privately held. (See BioWorld Today, June 7, 2004.)

CuraGen also has a broad alliance with Abgenix Inc., of Fremont, Calif., in which the firms have generated families of fully human monoclonal antibodies against 28 of CuraGen's antibody drug targets.

Outside of SGN75 and SGN35, Seattle Genetics has three other candidates in the clinic. They are SGN15 in Phase II studies for non-small-cell lung cancer; SGN30 in Phase II for hematological malignancies; and SGN40 in Phase I for multiple myeloma.

Seattle Genetics' stock (NASDAQ:SGEN) fell 9 cents Tuesday to close at $7. CuraGen's stock (NASDAQ:CRGN) fell 21 cents to close at $5.37.