National Editor

Two years after starting their deal for cancer vaccines, Aventis Pasteur has exercised its option to develop up to five targets discovered by Eos Biotechnology Inc., hitting the first major milestone and effectively finishing Eos' obligation.

"It could have ended with a whimper or a bang," said Robert Williamson, president and chief operating officer of South San Francisco-based Eos, and the latter happened, triggering an undisclosed milestone payment.

"We don't have a formal agreement for significant further activity, but obviously we're hoping these five keep pushing forward, because we benefit financially if they do," he said. Aventis has worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the targets.

Because Aventis, owned by Aventis AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, is directed more than antibody-focused Eos at vaccines - the company has vaccines against 19 bacterial and viral diseases, with two in clinical development for colorectal cancer and melanoma - the deal signed in June 2000 works out well for both. (See BioWorld Today, June 7, 2000.)

Eos got an undisclosed up-front fee on signing the agreement, along with funding of research and development, in exchange for an exclusive license for Aventis to design vaccines based on the targets. Aventis is providing milestone payments plus royalties on any products that come out of the deal.

With a bounty of targets generated through its genomics platform, Eos also has a pact with Medarex Inc., of Princeton, N.J., to use transgenic mice in developing antibody products to fight cancer. Medarex provided $25 million in cash to Eos, plus a $75 million credit line that otherwise would be payable to Medarex as milestones and royalties for use of Medarex's HuMAb Mouse technology. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 15, 2000.)

Richard Murray, vice president of research for Eos, noted the "nice separation" between antibodies and vaccines and said he was pleased that the company has been able to push both forward, internally and externally.

"And we did our own first [investigational new drug application] on time," he said, referring to the IND filed in late December for the antibody Eos2000-4, which has been shown to inhibit angiogenesis using in vitro and in vivo models by blocking the interaction between activated endothelial cells and their extracellular environment.

As work continues in-house, Eos is "in the middle of some very interesting discussions [with prospective target collaborators] well beyond Medarex," Williamson told BioWorld Today.