Corixa Corp. is looking to the East for a cancer vaccine, signing an agreement with Kirin Brewery Co. Ltd. to collaborate on a product against multiple forms of the disease.

The agreement with Tokyo-based Kirin gives it rights to develop and market vaccine products in Asia/Australasia using Corixa's Wilms' tumor (WT1) antigen vaccine program. For North America, the companies will share rights and development and commercialization costs. Corixa, of Seattle, retains marketing rights in Europe for any developed vaccine, although it said it would probably seek a partner to help with European development.

The deal calls for a $3 million up-front fee to Corixa, and Corixa will shoot for milestone payments and would receive royalties on product sales in the Asia/Australasia region. Kirin will co-fund the development of WT1 products. Further financial details were not disclosed.

In a research note from Pacific Growth Equities, analyst Thomas Dietz said that although clinical research of a candidate vaccine is not anticipated to begin before the end of 2003, "Corixa continues to advance its pipeline of immunotherapeutic candidates through partnerships that provide it with financial support while retaining significant interest in the potential commercial success of its products."

The WT1 antigen is in-licensed from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The antigen is overexpressed in up to 80 percent of adult myelogenous leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphatic leukemia and myelodysplasia, Corixa said. Its program is focused on developing a vaccine that generates a T-cell response capable of killing leukemia cells.

News of the deal comes just days after Corixa said it was dropping its dispute resolution with the FDA over Corixa's anticancer product, Bexxar. The agency accepted additional data from Corixa for Bexxar's biologics license application, and accepted Corixa's responses to questions raised by the FDA concerning the filing. That means Corixa will bring Bexxar before the FDA's Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) meeting Dec. 17 with the application now considered "active." News of the FDA's acceptance drove Corixa's stock up 20.6 percent Tuesday, when it closed at $8.30. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 4, 2002.)

Dietz said of the drug, "We continue to anticipate a positive recommendation at the upcoming Dec. 17 ODAC panel, based upon the demonstrated safety and efficacy of Bexxar." He added that data to be presented at the American Society for Hematology meeting in Philadelphia "point to the therapy's ability to produce sustained complete remissions in patients with relapsed or refractory low-grade and transformed low-grade [non-Hodgkin's lymphoma]."

Corixa's stock (NASDAQ:CRXA) lost 4 cents Thursday to close at $7.92.