BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS Genset SA has granted a license to Ricerca LLC, of Concord, Ohio, for its RAP-3 gene, which is associated with cancer. The U.S. company said it plans to use the gene as a drug target, as well as to explore the possibility of developing RAP-3 as a protein therapeutic.

The deal will enable Ricerca to embark on its own drug discovery program in the field of oncology. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Ricerca said its strategy is to license a portfolio of gene targets and candidate compounds for the development of drugs to treat both cancer and infectious diseases. Ricerca’s CEO, Prabhavathi Fernandes, explained that “RAP-3 is the first of several new gene targets that Ricerca intends to license from Genset and other partners, and for which Ricerca will hold full drug development rights. We intend to apply our ChemoProteomics platform in drug discovery to validate these new gene targets and identify drug leads that can be swiftly moved to an investigational new drug [application], clinical development and market launch through Ricerca’s drug development infrastructure.”

At Paris-based Genset, which now is focusing on the development of drugs for metabolic disorders and central nervous system diseases, Chairman and CEO André Pernet welcomed the deal with Ricerca, saying it enabled Genset to “capitalize on the strong asset base and intellectual property portfolio it has built up during the last six years. By licensing gene targets to Ricerca, Genset will be able to share in any potential products and revenues generated from the development and marketing of drugs in these other areas, while focusing our research and development on validated targets and drug candidates in our core areas.”

Pernet pointed out that “RAP-3 comes from our secreted proteins library, which is likely to contain other jewels’ with potential applications outside of our core areas.” That library contains more than 4,000 proteins that do not have therapeutic relevance to Genset’s specialist fields, and Pernet said in February that he expected to conclude protein licensing agreements with more than one company in the first half of this year.

Genset also announced the departure of its chief financial officer, John Varian, who joined the company in 2000 and accompanied its strategic shift from pure genomics research to genomics-based drug discovery. Varian, who is credited with having put Genset onto a firm financial footing, notably through negotiating the recent sale of its oligonucleotides division for EUR25 million (US$21.6 million) and the arrangement of a EUR30 million equity line with the French bank Société Générale, is returning to live in San Francisco. (See BioWorld International, Mar. 6, 2002.)