Washington Editor

Myriad Genetics Inc. entered a deal worth upward of $34 million with Abbott Laboratories Inc. to identify genes and drug targets for the diagnosis and treatment of depression.

Salt Lake City-based Myriad will use its drug target identification and validation technologies to identify proteins connected with depression. “We have databases that are very powerful that can find individuals who did not respond to a certain depression treatment on the first try, and we can move them to a new drug,” Bill Hockett, Myriad’s vice president for corporate communications, told BioWorld Today. “The databases are powerful in determining pharmacogenomics of particular drug targets or drugs themselves.”

He said Myriad will use ProNet, its high-throughput protein interaction technology, to identify protein interactions along the depression pathway. The company said proteins discovered in that pathway should offer drug target opportunities, while providing insight into the cause and possible treatment of the disease.

“This is a three-year collaboration and we are both very excited,” Hockett said. “We are really pleased to use our knowledge of the depression proteome, along with our target discovery and validation technologies, in collaboration with Abbott. It is an important strategic direction for Abbott, and it is valuable for Myriad as well to use its technologies and demonstrated ability to come up with valuable drug targets.”

Financially, Abbott, of Abbott Park, Ill., will make an up-front payment plus guarantee Myriad research funding and offer potential milestones, all totaling about $34 million, as well as royalties, Hockett said. Abbott will retain license rights. Specific terms were not disclosed.

“We are very pleased to be using our advanced biopharmaceutical technologies in collaboration with Abbott in our effort to discover the next generation of drugs to treat depression,” Peter Meldrum, president and CEO of Myriad, said in a prepared statement. “The integration of drug target discovery with disease pathway discovery and functional validation provides Myriad with the ability to deliver to Abbott novel therapeutic targets with high potential to result in the safe and effective drugs that are needed to treat this important human disease.”

In other drug development news, Myriad late last year initiated enrollment in a Phase II/III trial of its prostate cancer drug, Flurizan (MPC-7869). The multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is designed to demonstrate the efficacy of Flurizan in 400 patients. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 21, 2001.)

And in November, Myriad and Biosearch Italia SpA entered a three-year collaboration to discover therapeutic compounds using naturally occurring products. In that deal, Myriad, which will select the drug targets, will develop the targets and high-throughput assays to screen against Biosearch’s library. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 28, 2001.)

Myriad has two subsidiaries: Myriad Pharmaceuticals Inc., which develops and intends to market therapeutic products, and Myriad Genetic Laboratories Inc., which develops and markets predictive medicine and personalized medicine products.

Myriad’s stock (NASDAQ:MYGN) closed Tuesday at $34.87, down $1.18.