Ingenium Pharmaceuticals AG is expanding a genetic research collaboration with Elan Corp. plc.

The parties' current alliance is focused on pain management, and Elan now will use additional Ingenium technologies in other undisclosed areas, beyond the initial research. Munich, Germany-based Ingenium produces mouse models using its INGENOtyping platform, a target validation technology enabled by the company's Deductive Genomics research.

"This is moving ahead quite nicely," Ingenium CEO Michael Nehls told BioWorld Today. "In a few weeks we have hits, and it takes only a few weeks by in vivo validation to generate the models. It's not only several times faster than current knockout technologies, but there also is a quality aspect."

It takes the company less than four months to use its INGENOtyping technology to create mammalian models with genetic alterations in any target gene of interest. In the process, Ingenium looks to identify mutations and then produce corresponding models for gene function analysis. Its Deductive Genomics technology combines genome-covering mutagenesis in the murine model system with a biological screen.

That efficiency had Dublin, Ireland-based Elan wanting more.

"Elan was impressed with how quickly we were able to produce the models," Gretchen Schweitzer, vice president of Ingenium, told BioWorld Today. "So they saw a lot of value in accessing further models outside of the original scope of the agreement."

The models are in addition to those already in development through the first partnership. The companies did not disclose genes of interest in the latest agreement, nor did they release the arrangement's financial terms.

In the pain collaboration, the partners are jointly spending about $10 million for four years of research programs. For each potential product, Ingenium could earn up to $50 million in milestone payments related to the identification of a clinical candidate, the beginning of clinical trials, the application for regulatory authorization, and product approval in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Elan would be responsible for global commercialization, while Ingenium has an option for co-development and co-commercialization rights. (See BioWorld Today, March 25, 2003.)

Besides Elan, Ingenium is in research partnerships with Bayer Corp., of Leverkusen, Germany; F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland; Sequenom Inc., of San Diego; Oxagen Ltd., of Abingdon, UK; and Lynkeus BioTech GmbH, of Wurzburg, Germany; as well as academic collaborations. The company was part of a coalition of research organizations that published its findings in a May issue of Science that pointed to their discovery of a genetic and molecular basis for motor neuron disease. The researchers used distinct mouse models of the disease to find the genetic cause of its symptoms, revealing mutations in a single gene called Dnchc 1. (See BioWorld Today, May 16, 2003.)

"This technology was an asset we had, cultivated for internal reasons, but we learned in the last one and a half years that there still is a great need to get models and targets validated," Nehls said, noting that the modeling technology not only allows for the creation of knockouts but also models with other alterations in gene activity, such as point mutations. "We are quite excited at the moment to have the validation by Elan, but we also see validation through the pure science we're doing here."

Beyond its joint research agreements, Ingenium is advancing a pipeline of models and drug targets in the areas of inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes/obesity, and neurological disorders such as Lou Gehrig's disease.