Washington Editor

MedImmune Inc. agreed to spend an undisclosed amount of money expanding its cancer program through the licensure of two early stage technologies.

The first technology, licensed from Panacea Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Rockville, Md., targets the enzyme Human Aspartyl (Asparaginyl) Beta-Hydroxylase (HAAH), which has been found to be overexpressed in some primary tumor tissues, including cancers of the pancreas, breast, ovary, liver, colon, prostate, lung, brain and bile duct.

The second technology, developed by A&G Pharmaceutical Inc., of Baltimore, targets the PC cell-derived growth factor (PCDGF), which is expressed by breast cancer cells that respond to and have become resistant to estrogen therapies.

In each agreement, MedImmune, of Gaithersburg, Md., licensed exclusive worldwide rights. Furthermore, while the deals are separate, MedImmune has agreed to make “modest” equity investments in each company, as well as up-front payments, milestones related to development and future potential royalties, Lori Weiman, MedImmune’s senior director of corporate communications, told BioWorld Today.

MedImmune also will fund research and development costs for each program and will have sole responsibility for commercialization activities.

“We plan to work closely with our new partners at Panacea and A&G to develop therapeutic products that will potentially offer significant advances in cancer treatment,” Peter Kiener, MedImmune’s vice president, research, said in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, Kasra Ghanbari, Panacea’s chief operating officer, told BioWorld Today that the deal validates Panacea’s technology. “MedImmune has expertise in oncology and in the development of antibody therapeutics, which is exactly what we were trying to do here against these targets. Financially, this validates our business model, which is to license in early promising technologies and to apply our expertise in research and development toward product development, and then find the right partner to co-develop and commercialize the technology and that is exactly the model that has been fulfilled in this relationship.”

While there’s no set timeline as to how long it will take to develop either technology, Weiman said both fit well into MedImmune’s cancer program, which dates back to 1995 when the company entered an agreement with SB Biologicals, a division of GlaxoSmithKline plc in London, to develop a cervical cancer vaccine. The product is in Phase II development.

Then in 1999 MedImmune licensed the rights to Vitaxin, a monoclonal antibody, from Applied Molecular Evolution Inc. In March 2001, MedImmune started a Phase I pharmacokinetic study of Vitaxin in patients with refractory solid tumors, and in July, the company began a Phase I/II study in patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

Last October, MedImmune licensed the EphA2 technology from Purdue University. EphA2 is a tumor-causing protein when overexpressed.

MedImmune has a healthy pipeline of products in clinical testing, in addition to three products on the market: Synagis (palivizumab), Ethyol (amifostine) and CytoGam (cytomegalovirus immune globulin intravenous [human]).

Both Panacea and A&G are private companies. MedImmune’s stock (NASDQ:MEDI) closed Friday at $36.19, down 65 cents.

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