BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON Celltech Group plc is aiming to extend the capabilities of its therapeutic antibodies, signing a US$30 million deal to use technology from Seattle Genetics Inc. to link drug conjugates to antibody fragments targeted at specific diseases.

Under the terms of the deal, Celltech will pay an up-front technology access fee, R&D costs and milestone payments that could total more than $30 million across all targets in the collaboration. Celltech, based in Slough, will handle product development, manufacturing and marketing of any products, and will pay royalties to Seattle Genetics.

Melanie Lee, Celltech’s director of R&D, said the deal expands the company’s antibody platform into applications that require cell destruction. “We believe the combination of these two state-of-the-art technologies will facilitate the next generation of treatments for immunological and other diseases.”

Seattle Genetics has developed novel drugs that can be linked to antibodies. The links are stable in the bloodstream but release the drugs under the conditions inside target cells. Celltech will have broad access to use the technology against multiple targets.

Celltech already has a collaboration with Wyeth, of Madison, N.J., on antibody-cytotoxic conjugates. This partnership produced Mylotarg, the first such entity to be approved by the FDA. The companies now are working on a further conjugate, CMC-544, using the technology developed for Mylotarg. The compound is in preclinical testing and is expected to enter clinical development for non-Hodgkins lymphoma later this year.

The collaboration with Seattle Genetics initially will focus on immunological targets.

Celltech also announced a manufacturing agreement with BioReliance Corp., of Rockville, Md., under which BioReliance will use Celltech’s proprietary technology to manufacture antibody fragment-based drugs. BioReliance will produce three product candidates in 2002 and a minimum of three more in 2003.