IDEC Pharmaceuticals Corp. and Caprion Pharmaceuticals Inc. entered a research collaboration for IDEC to use Caprion's CellCarta, a subcellular proteomics discovery platform, to discover antigens that will be used to develop cancer therapeutics.

The collaboration includes a $4 million equity investment in Montreal-based Caprion by San Diego-based IDEC, as well as $7 million for a technology access fee and research funding.

"It's our first major deal using our CellCarta platform," said Caprion President and CEO Lloyd Segal. "It validates what we're doing in proteomic drug discovery. This is the quintessential validating deal, and we believe we're doing it with a company that is a leader in biologicals."

The deal also could include milestone payments and high-single-digit royalties should products result from the collaboration, Segal said.

With CellCarta, Caprion's approach is to identify the entire protein complement of organelles from tissues in various conditions. The application in cancer is to study both normal and diseased tissues, which leads to discovery and functional characterization of human protein targets and disease markers.

The companies' ultimate goal is to identify tumor-specific cell-surface antigen targets related to colon cancer, which could then be applied to other cancers. IDEC will have exclusive, worldwide rights to any therapeutics developed using discoveries from the collaboration.

"What we intend to do is run about 35 to 40 patients and deliver an initial data set of targets to IDEC in about 18 months," Segal said. "We can earn milestones as they select individual targets that are attractive to IDEC. The further they take them, the better we do above and beyond the $11 million."

IDEC will develop the antibodies, Segal said.

For its part, IDEC had been looking to complement its genomics efforts with efforts in proteomics, said Roland Newman, IDEC's senior director of business development.

Newman said IDEC wanted a company that was "sophisticated enough to do what we wanted to do."

"Proteomics being a relatively new field, few of the companies in this field have a very long track record," Newman said. "But we did feel that Caprion had demonstrated its ability in many of its previous studies; they certainly have the hardware. IDEC's approach for the last couple of years has been to look for new targets for oncology, and we've been doing that by a variety of methods," he said. "Proteomics is a new technology or new approach, but it's still related to the goal, which is to identify targets."

Segal, who spent Tuesday morning presenting at the 15th annual Bear, Stearns Healthcare Conference in New York, said, "Finally, there's a deal involving a proteomics-based drug discovery company that has real cash [attached to it], and I think that's the bigger news here."

While this is privately held Caprion's first deal based on CellCarta, it is not the company's first collaboration. In December, it entered an exclusive licensing agreement with Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics Inc., of Raritan, N.J., a Johnson & Johnson company, to develop a human blood test for variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob's disease. That arrangement was an extension of the companies' initial research collaboration under which Ortho exercised an option to license Caprion's prion technologies.

In August 1999, Caprion and IDEXX Laboratories Inc., of Westbrook, Maine, entered a collaboration to develop reagents for the diagnosis of mad-cow disease.

IDEC's stock (NASDAQ:IDPH) rose 33 cents Tuesday to close at $44.03.