Abgenix Inc. entered a multiyear collaboration with Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. to develop fully human monoclonal antibody therapies, while Chugai separately gained rights to develop products based on patents belonging to Abgenix.

"Our mutual interest in the development of antibody-based therapeutics makes us ideal partners for this type of collaboration," Ami Knoefler, Abgenix's director of corporate communications and investor relations, told BioWorld Today. "We have an increasing emphasis in our corporate strategy on partnering as a means to increase the efficiency and reduce the risk of drug development. The Chugai deal is an example of one type of collaboration that touches on all of our integrated set of capabilities, from antibody generation to development and also production services."

Specific financial terms of the development agreement were not disclosed, but Fremont, Calif.-based Abgenix will receive an up-front technology utilization payment and a licensing fee. The companies will share equally in the development and commercialization costs of all therapeutic antibody products that are designated as joint development antigens. Any future profits resulting from the collaboration also will be shared equally on a worldwide basis.

Both Abgenix and Tokyo-based Chugai will contribute up to two antigen targets representing undisclosed therapeutic areas, though the companies described them as diverse.

Abgenix will use its XenoMouse technology to generate, screen and characterize human monoclonal antibodies directed against each antigen target. Abgenix also will be responsible for manufacturing monoclonal antibodies against target antigens for use in clinical trials. Should products gain approval, Chugai will be responsible for commercial manufacturing in Japan, while Abgenix will be responsible in the U.S. and Europe.

Separately, Chugai will obtain a license to rights under patents held by Abgenix to develop and commercialize products based on parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrp). Chugai is developing a product to treat PTH.

As part of the licensing deal, Knoefler said Abgenix is receiving an undisclosed up-front licensing fee followed by potential royalties.

"We see this an example of executing on our shift in strategy to seek partners earlier on and to partner more broadly across the range of capabilities that we have in the antibody development area," Knoefler said. "We have a variety of different types of partnerships that we feel are creating a true portfolio for our drug development efforts."

In other recent deals, Abgenix last month entered an agreement to manufacture in its recently completed antibody production facility CuraGen Corp.'s CR002 antibody. Abgenix also has the right of first offer to manufacture additional antibodies stemming from the alliance. Abgenix and New Haven, Conn.-based CuraGen have generated families of fully human monoclonal antibodies against 28 of CuraGen's antibody drug targets. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 29, 2000; Aug. 16, 2000; and Dec. 10, 1999.)

In developing its internal pipeline, Abgenix, in collaboration with SangStat Medical Corp., also of Fremont, is conducting a Phase II/III trial to evaluate a possible survival benefit from ABX-CBL in patients with graft-vs.-host disease. Other clinical candidates include ABX-EGF, being developed in a 50/50 partnership with Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen Inc. The compound is in a Phase II program to treat epidermal growth factor-dependent cancers such as renal, lung, prostate and colorectal cancers. ABX-MA1 is in a Phase I dose-escalation study to treat metastatic melanoma.

Abgenix's stock (NASDAQ:ABGX) gained 8 cents Monday to close at $5.61.