Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Oxigene Inc. agreed to end their joint venture, Arcus Therapeutics LLC, which was focused on development of anticancer compounds called vascular targeting agents.

Peregrine, of Tustin, Calif., will pay Oxigene $2 million to reacquire rights and interest to the vascular targeting platform it contributed to the joint venture. Oxigene also will reacquire rights and interest to its vascular targeting technology. Each company will gain rights to any new discoveries that came from its contributed technology.

Tammy Bishop, director of investor relations and corporate communications for Oxigene, of Watertown, Mass., said the company could not comment further.

However, in a prepared release, Oxigene CEO Bjorn Nordenvall said that ending the Arcus joint venture would enable his company to dedicate more resources to the clinical testing of its lead agent, Combretastatin A4 Prodrug. Nordenvall said Combretastatin A4 Prodrug completed several Phase I trials involving about 100 patients, and preliminary clinical results were promising. The compound is designed to starve tumors of blood, but unlike angiogenesis inhibitors, it isn’t designed to affect newly developed blood vessels.

The company plans to start a Phase Ib trial in combination with chemotherapy or radiation and a Phase II trial this year. It also is continuing preclinical development of its next-generation vascular targeting agent, Oxi-4503.

In October, Oxigene said that it had broken ties with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., of New York, over the development of Oxigene’s combretastatin family of VTAs, and regained full rights. Oxigene had received up-front payments, but no milestones. The companies entered the agreement in December 1999. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 26, 2001.)

Peregrine President and CEO Edward Legere said in a press release that his company will focus on the licensing of its VTA technology for compound-specific uses to maximize its value. Peregrine is focused on coaguligand antibody technology, or vascular targeting agents that bind to markers in the tumor vasculature and create blood clots that cut off the blood supply to the tumor.

Peregrine officials could not be reached for comment.

Peregrine’s stock (NASDAQ:PPHM) gained 17 cents Friday to close at $2.27. Oxigene (NASADQ:OXGN) gained 14 cents to close at $2.30.