Doubling up its immunostimulatory work, Coley Pharmaceutical Group agreed to again work with GlaxoSmithKline plc, this time in the cancer arena.

The companies entered a license agreement to develop prophylactic and therapeutic cancer vaccines by combining Coley's CpG immunostimulatory oligonucleotides and GSK's cancer antigens.

"We have immunostimulants that are, I think, superior to any immunostimulant available and Glaxo is in the business of [vaccines] for cancer," said Robert Bratzler, president and CEO of Coley. "Those two things go together."

GlaxoSmithKline, of London, receives a worldwide nonexclusive license to Coley's CpG immunostimulatory oligonucleotides for use as cancer vaccine adjuvants. Coley received $4 million in license fees and the deal includes potential milestone payments and royalties. While he wouldn't discuss milestone size or royalty rates, Bratzler told BioWorld Today "it all adds up to a very nice [amount] for Coley, not unlike the $72 million deal in infectious disease done a few years ago."

Early in 2000, Coley agreed to give SmithKline Beecham plc (before its merger with Glaxo Wellcome plc) a worldwide co-exclusive license to CpG compounds for use in certain therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines for infectious diseases. Coley received $8 million up front in that deal, and another $64 million was pinned to milestones. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 19, 2000.)

Bratzler classified the work in the new deal as "beyond preclinical." The research will involve GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, located in Rixensart, Belgium.

Coley also has an agreement with Aventis Pharma AG, made public in August 2001, for asthma and allergic rhinitis. While the finances of that deal were officially undisclosed, at the time Bratzler called the potential of that deal "far bigger" than the original $72 million SmithKline collaboration. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 7, 2001.)

"Aventis is a super partner," Bratzler said Monday. "I'm hoping that the drug will prove to be a follow-on to their Allegra franchise." Allegra, sold by Aventis, is indicated for the relief of symptoms associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis in adults and children 6 years of age and older. It also is indicated for treatment of uncomplicated skin manifestations of chronic idiopathic urticaria in adults and children 6 years of age and older.

On it's own, privately held Coley has a proof-of-principle study in infectious diseases under way. It also is developing CpG 7909, and has 16 Phase I or Phase II trials ongoing for the product. Bratzler said the company is enrolling five different Phase I/II trials with CpG 7909 now to test it in five cancers.

"We are hoping that sometime next year we should have enough data accumulated to see which one to move forward into pivotal trials," he said.

But the expansion of its work with GSK, in fact, the work with its partners in general, carries a significant amount of weight, he said.

"[The partnerships] mean that Glaxo and Aventis have validated the technology platform," Bratzler said. "And we are very pleased with that. We are on track to getting this technology commercialized in the form of revolutionary new products. Coley can't do all this on our own. It is through our partnerships that we can hope to achieve big things."