National Editor

Their collaboration on schizophrenia drug targets has CuraGen Corp. and Mitsubishi Pharma Corp. seeing the deal as a win of financial proportions yet to be fully realized.

Mark Vincent, director of corporate communications and investor relations for New Haven, Conn.-based CuraGen, called the deal "an example of our downstream target validation capabilities" - in other words, not a great deal of money up front.

But that's been CuraGen's approach all along, he added.

"We don't do deals solely for the sake of generating revenues," Vincent told BioWorld Today. "There's got to be a strategic component."

CuraGen is providing its functional genomics capabilities to confirm and characterize targets discovered by MPC, of Tokyo, and gets funding in exchange, as well as access to findings made in the field of central nervous system disorders.

"It benefits us because we retain the rights to new discoveries, and we get paid for doing the work," Vincent said.

CuraGen deploys an integrated platform of functional genomics and Internet-based bioinformatics called GeneScape and has started about 200 projects based on newly discovered drug targets in obesity and diabetes, cancer, inflammation and CNS disorders.

The company's efforts have shown results. Of its 57 protein projects, five are validated therapeutic candidates. Of 96 antibody projects, 28 fully human monoclonal antibodies are being evaluated as potential drugs with Fremont, Calif.-based Abgenix Inc. And of 55 small-molecule projects, 17 are undergoing screens or have been completed as part of a $1.34 billion deal with Bayer AG, of Leverkusen, Germany. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 17, 2001.)

The Abgenix and Bayer deals are the largest, Vincent said, adding that "now it's just a matter of focusing on the right projects."

In-house, the hottest product is CG53135, a fibroblast growth factor also known as FGF-20, being studied for mucositis and inflammatory bowel disease. Favorable preclinical data on the drug were published last month in the journal Gastroenterology, and CuraGen is conducting toxicology and formulation studies.

"We expect to file an [investigational new drug application] in the first half of next year," Vincent said.

CuraGen's stock (NASDAQ:CRGN) closed Tuesday at $4.44, up 51 cents, or 13 percent.