BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc and Genzyme Corp. are strengthening their ties, with CAT increasing its financial contribution to joint work on anti-TNF-beta antibodies and Genzyme investing £22.9 million (US$37.7 million) in 4.3 million CAT shares, raising its total stake to 11 percent.

When the companies set up their collaboration in September 2000, the agreement gave CAT the right to get a greater share of any profits by putting more money into the development program. Although the amount of money was not disclosed, CAT said it now is committed to fund 50 percent of the development costs over the next two years, "significantly increasing" its share of the profits.

CAT CEO Peter Chambre told BioWorld International, "CAT's goals and strategy are based on investing in a number of key products in clinical development where we can get significant returns. We think the anti-TNF-beta program is potentially very high value."

He added that the equity investment from Genzyme would enable Cambridge, UK-based CAT to fully fund its share of the anti-TNF-beta program and was a sign of Genzyme's commitment to its collaboration with CAT. Under the initial deal Genzyme, of Cambridge, Mass., made a $20 million equity investment in CAT for 307,982 shares.

The two also amended their agreement to give each other the right to purchase the other's interest in the program if either is acquired by a third party.

Chambre said the money that CAT is committing will accelerate the clinical development of antibodies against TNF-beta, which is implicated in a number of fibrotic disorders and scarring. The lead product in the collaboration, CAT 192, has completed a Phase I/II trial in the treatment of scleroderma, with initial results expected in the fourth quarter. An IND will be filed with the FDA for the second product, GC-1008, in the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis before the end of 2003. GC-1008 is the lead product in a series of anti-TNF-beta human monoclonal antibodies, and it is expected that trials of other products in the series will follow.

CAT already has established proof of efficacy for an anti-TNF-beta antibody in preventing scarring following surgery for the eye disease glaucoma. The product, called Trabio, recently completed enrollment in a Phase II/III European study, and CAT is looking for a partner. Trabio and the use of other anti-TGF-beta antibodies to treat ophthalmic diseases are excluded from the Genzyme/CAT collaboration.

CAT also announced a further expansion of its 1998 licensing agreement with Dyax Corp., of Cambridge Mass., granting Dyax an increased number of options for licenses to develop antibody products under CAT's phage display patents. In return, Dyax gave up the right to any royalties due from CAT on Humira, an antibody treatment for rheumatoid arthritis launched at the beginning of 2003 by CAT's partner, Abbott Laboratories.

CAT is entitled to milestones and royalties on any products Dyax develops. Chambre said the deal was a good one because it had enabled CAT to cancel royalty obligations to Dyax without paying cash, and expands its antibody licensing. "Our explicit focus is that outside the areas on which we focus, we will broadly license," Chambre said.