BioWorld International Correspondent

Norwegian firm Affitech A/S signed two therapeutic antibody discovery and development deals inside a week, both with North American cancer companies.

The Oslo-based company partnered with Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Tustin, Calif., on the development of human antibodies to targets derived from the latter firm's Vascular Targeting Agent and anti-angiogenesis programs. It entered a second collaboration with Toronto-based Viventia Biotechnology Inc. that will focus on identifying novel cancer-associated antigens and antibodies that act on them.

Terms were not disclosed in either case, but each involves technology access fees and milestone payments to Affitech. "They follow more or less the same lines, but I would say the Viventia deal is broader in its scope," Affitech CEO Ole Jurgen Marvik told BioWorld International.

Viventia and Affitech will jointly own the newly discovered antigens and antibodies resulting from the collaboration. Each has alternating rights to pick candidates for further development, in exchange for fees and royalties to the other party. In the case of Peregrine, drug candidates may follow a variety of development routes, including in-house development at either company, joint development or licensing to a third party.

The draw for each company was Affitech's set of proprietary antibody libraries and its AffiScreen platform, which provides a rapid method of screening patient repertoires for antibodies of potential therapeutic value. The technology originally was developed for infectious disease applications, but Affitech now is extending it into cancer, Marvik said. It comprises a high-density array of bacterial clones expressing the total complement of Vg genes harvested from patients' B-lymphocyte populations. It can fish out antibodies that may have therapeutic value, even if they have suboptimal activity or are poorly expressed within the original patient.

"It has general utility, we believe, for many cancer types," Marvik said.

Affitech entered one other antibody development deal in the cancer area earlier this year, with Danish firm NatImmune A/S. The company is looking to sign with one more cancer partner in the current year, Marvik said. (See BioWorld International, April 16, 2003.)